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Kenya Bi 

1 8 JAN 2000 

ISSN 1023- JO /^ 

Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2 

August 1999 

A joint publication of the Department of Ornithology, National Museums of 
Kenya, and the Bird Committee of the East Africa Natural History Society 
Editors: Leon Bennun, Colin Jackson and Joseph Oyugi 
Department of Ornithology, National Museums of Kenya, P O Box 40658, Nairobi 


Benjamin Franklin famously remarked that there were only two certainties: 
death and taxes. Readers may be wondering if the delayed appearance of Kenya 
Birds should constitute a third. Producing the magazine is difficult at the mo- 
ment; not because of any lack of material — there are plenty of interesting 
articles and records coming in, as the contents of this double issue show — but 
because there is so much else taking the time of your editors. 

We are considering ways to deal with the bottleneck. In the meantime, any 
offers of skilled (please note the emphasis!) help with editing or layout would 
certainly be appreciated. More sponsor subscribers might also give us the fi- 
nancial resources to take on extra assistance when needed — do consider be- 
coming a sponsor when you renew. 

This issue contains news up to July 1999, and records up to July 1998. 
Records for the 'missing' year are still being compiled. They will be in volume 
8 (which with luck will appear before the next millennium is too far advanced. . . ) 

Many thanks to all those who have sent in notes and observations. What- 
ever material we haven't fitted into this issue will, again, go into the next. Just 
a reminder that when vol. 8 appears it will only be sent to readers who have 
renewed their subscriptions — please take the time to send your subs in now! 

Wishing you good birding, and an excellent World Birdwatch on 2 and 3 
October! — The Editors 

Subscription rates for Volume 8 


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Please make cheques payable to 'Bird Committee of the EANHS'. Subscribers outside 
Kenya may pay in any convertible currency. Back numbers of most volumes are available, 
at KSh 150/= per issue (KSh 300/= per volume). 

Please address all correspondence to: The Editors, Kenya Birds, Department 
of Ornithology, National Museums of Kenya, PO Box 40658, Nairobi, Kenya 

Front cover illustration: Corncrake Crex crex by Edwin Selempo. All illustrations 
from the forthcoming IBA directory for Kenya: by Edwin Selempo, except Crab 
Plover on p. 105 by Brian Small. Printed by Omnia Printers, Nairobi. 

Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 fr^fougftsf ilfll89'3UM 

News from Kenya arid 4fiitt4d300 

Department of ^mifflnPjf^^ 

Project Kasigau '98: A preliminary report 

Mount Kasigau rises alone, 50 kilometres south-east of the Taita Hills massif. 
It is a forbidding peak, reaching over 1 ,600 metres in a near- vertical ascent 
from the plains. Isolation and inaccessibility have largely hidden the se- 
crets of this mountain from researchers since Van Someren visited it in 
1938. All that was known until recently was that the indigenous forest was 
believed to be very similar to the tiny fragments remaining on the Taita 
Hills, and that it contained at least one of the three critically endangered 
Taita endemic birds; the Taita White-eye. The extent and vulnerability of 
this population was, however, unknown; nor was it known whether Taita 
Thrush was also present in Kasigau's forests (though it was rumoured to 

Such an enigmatic situation led to plans for an ornithologically-centred 
expedition to Mt. Kasigau, under the joint auspices of the National Muse- 
ums of Kenya (NMK) in Nairobi and the University of East Anglia (UEA) 
in Norwich, England. With support from these institutions and the Royal 
Geographic Society, a joint UK- Kenyan team won the Tropical Forest cat- 
egory of the BP Conservation Awards (see below); providing the funding 
needed to realise our plans. Led by Jim Barnes at UEA, with experience of 
conservation research from the Taita Hills project, the team comprised an- 
other Taita Hills veteran, Roger Barnes (a Leeds-based artist — and Jim's 
dad!), plus Ronald Mulwa and Mwangi Githiru from NMK and Peter 
Burston, John Leckie and myself from UEA. 

The project team assembled in Nairobi in mid- June this year and was 
soon in the village of Rukanga at the base of Kasigau, contemplating its 
forbidding presence and beginning to realise why no-one else had mus- 
tered the energy to survey the mountain. Fortunately, we had information 
on a suitable campsite some way up the slope. For most of the next three 
months, this site was to act as the base for our research. Data collection 
was centred on systematic bird surveys, supported by mist-netting and veg- 
etation studies. 

Initial work suggested that Kasigau's forests were somewhat impover- 
ished in birds, both species and numbers — possibly due to the historical 

2 Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 

isolation of the peak and resultant local extinctions. However, over time 
we made several important discoveries. First, the higher altitude forests on 
Kasigau appear to be a crucial refuge for the Taita White-eye. With num- 
bers in the Taitas low and threatened by habitat loss and degradation, it was 
reassuring to find that Kasigau's largely intact forests supported a good 
population of this species. Flocks of over 100 were not uncommon. Also, 
such an isolated peak in the plains seemed irresistible to raptors. We saw 
about 25 species (including Egyptian Vulture, African Crowned Eagle, Af- 
rican Hawk-Eagle, Bat Hawk and an oversummering Eleonora's Falcon) 
on or around Mt Kasigau, many using the forests, nesting cliffs or thermal s 
of the mountain regularly. The Acacia/Commiphora bushland around the 
mountain's base supported many species (including Violet Wood-Hoopoe 
and Pallid Honeyguide), while Striped Pipits were found around bare rocks 
from the base of the mountain, near the villages at 600 m, upwards. 

The absence of the Taita Thrush and Taita Apalis was disappointing. On 
the other hand, the absence of any of the endemic birds of the Tanzania- 
Malawi mountain range (with which the Taitas and Kasigau are currently 
included as an endemic bird area (EBA)) by BirdLife International, pro- 
vides further support for designation of Kasigau and the Taitas as a sepa- 
rate and distinct EBA. The final necessary evidence may come from ongo- 
ing DNA studies into the exact taxonomic status of the three Taita endemic 

We found significant tracts of undisturbed indigenous forest on the up- 
per slopes of Kasigau. Although degradation from rising human populations 
may seem inevitable, we found quite a high level of conservation aware- 
ness in the villages around the mountain. We were able to stimulate aware- 
ness of the mountain's importance further through work with several local 
schools at the end of our visit. The response from both students and teach- 
ers was enthusiastic and we intend to continue our work with the schools 
now the survey has finished. We believe local people would readily back a 
longer-term conservation initiative. The first steps towards this will be made 
by Ronald Mulwa when he returns to Mt Kasigau as part of an MSc study 
on the Taita White-eye. 

With tourism currently so important a part of Kenya's economy, we 
hope Kasigau residents may see conservation-related income in the future 
from birdwatching visitors to the mountain and the surrounding area. If 
you visit Kasigau, please make people aware that you are there because the 

Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 3 

mountain's forests and their special birds have been conserved. — John 
Pilgrim, 41 Wellsfield, Rayleigh, Essex SS6 8DW, UK and Ornithology Dept, 
P O Box 40658, Nairobi 


This joint Ornithology Department-University of East Anglia Kasigau team won 
the Tropical Forests category of the prestigious BP Conservation Programme 
awards for 1 998. The £5,000 award provided the key funding needed for the expe- 
dition, led by UEA Biology student Jim Barnes, to carry out its work. 

The Conservation Programme, now in its fourteenth year, is organised by 
BirdLife International and Fauna & Flora International and supported by BP. For 
information and application forms, contact Katharine Gotto (the Programme Man- 
ager) at BirdLife International, Wellbrook Court, Girton Rd., Cambridge CB3 ONA, 

Birds of semi-arid areas 

A Department research project, The biodiversity impacts of land-use 
changes in semi-arid areas: a landscape approach using bird populations' 
has received support from the Regional Project for the Sustainable Use of 
Dryland Biodiversity (RPSUD). The project will survey bird communities 
in Laikipia district, contrasting adjacent areas with differing land uses to 
gain an understanding of how birds are responding changes in to vegeta- 
tion structure. George Amutete and his team carried out preliminary sur- 
vey work in March 1 999, and fieldwork proper starts in August. 

In April 1999 Amutete joined US researchers Linda McCann and David 
Niven at Mpala Research Centre. The team was continuing long-term re- 
search on Laikipia birds begun by the late Jim Lynch (see elsewhere in this 
issue). The Department (with the Nairobi Ringing Group) hopes to con- 
tinue this work with support from the Smithsonian Institution, visiting three 
times each year to trap and ring birds at constant-effort sites near the re- 
search centre. 

A first look at the Tana River forests 

The unique riparian forests on the lower Tana River are an Important Bird 
Area, sheltering threatened birds such as East Coast Akalat and (if it is not 
yet extinct) the mysterious White-winged Apalis. Some of the most impor- 
tant patches of forest are protected in the Tana River Primate National Re- 
serve, set up to conserve two rare sub-species of monkeys (the Tana River 

4 Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 

Mangabey and Tana River Red Colobus) that are found only here. Unfor- 
tunately, the Reserve has long faced serious conservation problems, with 
conflicts between the management authority (Kenya Wildlife Service) and 
the local people who still live in the reserve and use its resources. To solve 
these problems, the Global Environment Facility funded a major conserva- 
tion project in the Reserve. For various reasons the project has experienced 
numerous delays and false starts, but some work on the research compo- 
nent finally got under way early in 1999. Along with other research teams 
from the National Museums, an Ornithology team led by Joseph Oyugi 
visited the Reserve from 20-27 February 1999. They mist-netted and ob- 
served birds in four forest patches, Mchelelo, Congolani Central, Mnazini 
North and Mnazini South. All the patches showed signs of distur- 
bance. Mchelelo and Mnazini North appeared in better 
condition than the other two patches, with a higher pro- 
portion of forest-dependent birds and a more complete 
canopy cover. There was no sign of the threatened 
East Coast Akalat, nor of two forest sunbirds 
— Plain-backed and Uluguru Violet- 
backed — that are regionally 
threatened. Unfortunately 
poor security still 
makes it difficult 
to survey many 
of the forest 
patches in the 
area, especially 
on the west 

Plain-backed Sunbird l'J). : j:'/ "W/ % bank of the 


Naivasha nest-boxes await their occupants 

Many woodland birds such as woodpeckers, barbets, wood-hoopoes and 
hornbills depend on tree-holes for nesting. Suitable nest holes are usually 
in short supply and these species do badly when large old trees are cut 
down, and when dead wood is removed. Elsewhere in the world nest boxes 
have been used with great success to provide nesting sites for hole-nesting 
woodland species — could they be used in East Africa as well? Work by 

Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 5 

Department intern Michael Maina is putting this to the test. Maina was 
recently awarded a grant by the African Bird Club for a project to set up 
and monitor nest-boxes in the woodland at Lake Naivasha. Boxes of vary- 
ing sizes and designs are in place at several sites already and being moni- 
tored — now it's up to the birds. . . 

Waterbird ups and downs: what do they tell us? 

The Department has been co-ordinating counts of waterbirds at the main 
Rift Valley lakes since 1 990. As well as the actual numbers of birds counted, 
the way in which they vary from year to year can be very informative. 
Department researchers recently analysed patterns of variations in Rift Val- 
ley waterbird counts. The results were presented at the international con- 
ference on shallow tropical waters and humans, held at Lake Naivasha in 
April 1999. 

Patterns of variation in waterbird numbers can give useful information 
about several different aspects: 

(1) How significant are population changes? We need to know how vari- 
ability differs across different waterbird groups. If numbers in a particular 
group fluctuate greatly, we should not be surprised to see large changes 
from year to year. If they are usually stable, then a big change should set 
alarm bells ringing. 

The results: Individual lakes, and particular waterbird groups, showed very 
different patterns. The most consistently stable across all individual lakes 
were birds of prey and kingfishers. For the lakes combined, stable groups 
included Palaearctic waders, ibises and spoonbills and birds of prey, while 
unstable ones included large piscivores, grebes, coots and other rallids, 
and flamingos. The population of flamingos was much more stable at Lake 
Bogoria than anywhere else. 

(2) How reliably do population changes indicate ecological changes? If 
different waterbirds with similar ecology increase or decrease in numbers 
together at a particular site, and these changes can be related to changes in 
the environment, this increases our confidence in using these groups to 
indicate specific ecological changes. 

6 Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 

77?^ results: This happened for several groups, such as different waders at 
Naivasha and various large piscivores at Nakuru. These correlations could 
indeed be related to local ecological conditions. 

(3) How independent are counts at particular wetlands? Do particular 
groups of waterbirds show correlated patterns across sites? These could 
occur in three different ways, reflecting three different scenarios: 

• There could be a more-or-less constant 'pool ' of waterbirds in the south- 

ern Rift Valley, which responds to local conditions by making local 
movements. If numbers of a particular group increased at one site they 
would therefore decrease at another. Waterbird counts could then indi- 
cate a site's ecological character, but sites could not be treated inde- 

• The waterbirds could come from a much wider geographic pool, with 

the number in the southern Rift depending mainly on what conditions 
were like elsewhere. Numbers in particular groups would thus tend to 
increase or decrease in parallel across different sites. Waterbird counts 
in this case would say more about conditions elsewhere than the site 
where they were counted. 

• The waterbirds could come from a much wider geographic pool, but 

respond to the conditions at particular sites. Numbers in particular 
groups would then show few clear relationships across sites. Waterbird 
counts would thus give a good indication of a site's ecological charac- 
ter, and sites can be treated independently. 

The results: there are very few clear relationships, either positive or nega- 
tive, between sites. This suggests that waterbird counts do indeed give a 
good indication of a site's ecological character, and individual wetlands 
can be treated independently. 

Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 7 

Overall, the results give a boost to the idea that we can use waterbirds 
as indicators of ecological character in Rift Valley wetlands. 

Ornithologists migrate south 

Department researchers and associates Joseph Oyugi, Alfred Simiyu, Munir 
Virani and Leon Bennun attended the International Ornithological Con- 
gress in Durban, South Africa during August 1 998. The IOC has never 
been held in Africa before, so this was an opportunity not to be missed. It 
turned out to be a highly enjoyable (and worthwhile) meeting, thanks in 
large part to superb organisation by the hosts, BirdLife South Africa. The 
venue was Durban's brand-new, high-tech International Conference Cen- 
tre (the ornithologists warming the place up for the Non-aligned Move- 
ment conference the following week). Anyone who feels that ornitholo- 
gists are best in moderate doses is advised not to go to an IOC: immersion 
among a swarm of well over a thousand bird researchers for a week cer- 
tainly makes for an intense and rather exhausting experience. The next 
opportunity to network at this level will be in Beijing, China in 2002. Thanks 
to our various sponsors, BirdLife South Africa, the British Ornithologists' 
Union and the African Wildlife Foundation, for making the visit possible. 

High NRG 

The Nairobi Ringing Group continues with a busy and active programme. 
The Nairobi Arboretum has now taken over as the Constant Effort site from 
IUCN's Wasaa Centre in Langata, and regular ringing is also ongoing at 
the National Museums grounds. The group made excursions to Athi River, 
Magadi, Mida Creek and Arabuko-Sokoke, and the Aberdares — all trips 
with their own excitements and challenges. There have been substantial 
changes at the Museums riverside site — initially because the El Nino 
floods made off with a large chunk of it (and one mist-net, regrettably); 
later because of clearance in preparation for the new Nairobi Botanic Gar- 
den. This hasn't deterred the birds, though. Good catches have included a 
young Great Sparrowhawk, retraps of Common Fiscal and African Citril 
ringed during the groups' first sessions back in 1994, and African Black 
Duck and Giant Kingfisher — see the first-hand account below! 

Titus Imboma is the new Nairobi Ringing Group co-ordinator follow- 
ing Colin Jackson's departure for the coast. The ringing group welcomes 
(serious) new members — anyone interested in joining should contact Titus. 

8 Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 

Ringing in the river 

"On 3 December 1 998 at the NMK grounds the Nairobi Ringing Group 
made a spectacular advance in its species list by catching its first African 
Black Duck. The day before Titus Imboma and I put up nets as usual but 
with a small addition — one net across the Nairobi River intended solely 
to catch the duck, something that we had tried before with little success. 

The following morning Tito opened the nets at 7 a.m., but it was not 
until the second net round at 8:00 a.m. that the exciting moment came. As 
I was approaching the two 1 2-m nets in the scrub I looked over the bush to 
see that the one across the river had some activity. I saw a big black bird 
struggling to free itself. My mind didn't think of the duck at first: I as- 
sumed it was just a polythene bag. But then... it was moving... and I in- 
creased my speed, shouting to Tito because I had remembered why we had 
set the net across the river — it was the duck!! "Tito! Run! The Duck! 
Bata! Bata! Tito!" I shouted as I ran towards the net, leaving the scrub nets 
that held only mousebirds. 

The duck had been caught in the lower panel, flying downstream. I was 
wearing gum boots which didn't serve their purpose at all as my socks and 
trousers were soaked while trying to extract the bird. We removed it safely 
between the two of us, and I carried it to the ringing site in triumph, to 
surprise the other members. As word got out that we had caught a Black 
Duck members of the Ornithology Department flocked to the site to see 
our rare catch. 

Tito gave the duck a D ring as well as a white colour band after a lot of 
agonising searching for a well-fitting non-corroding ring. It was a fully 
grown bird with a wing span of 820 mm. 

It was a day for quality species because we also caught three migrants: 
two Willow Warblers and a Nightingale. 

On 10 December 1998, we tried the same magic, managing to catch a 
duck again. Unfortunately this time the bird was too heavy for the weak 
guy ropes and the net fell, with the duck managing to free itself just as we 
were about to reach it. We put up the net again and were consoled by trap- 
ping another spectacular species — the Giant Kingfisher." — Nicodemus 
Nalianya, P O Box 40658, Nairobi. 

[Adapted from Merops (the newsletter of the Nairobi Ringing Group) — 
available from the Department.] 

Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 

Advancing by degrees: updates on staff and students 

Congratulations to Munir Virani and Brooks Childress for successfully de- 
fending their PhD theses at Leicester University; to Oliver Nasirwa and 
Wenceslas Gatarabirwa for completing their MSc degrees at the University 
of East Anglia; to Paul Matiku, Joseph Oyugi and Alfred Simiyu, whose 
MPhil theses satisfied the examiners at Moi University; and to Kiptoo 
Kosgey and Mwangi Githiru for completing their Masters' theses (they 
await examination) at Moi and Kenyatta, respectively. 

Oliver and Wenceslas returned to Kenya in September 1998 for a year's 
independent research. Oliver and his field team (Richard Musina and 
Nicholas Nalianya) have been getting to grips with the papyrus swamps at 
Lake Kanyaboli, haunt of the threatened Papyrus Yellow Warbler among 
other special swamp species. Floating papyrus is a nerve-wracking habitat 
to work in: one can see why papyrus birds have been rather neglected by 
ornithologists! Wenceslas, assisted by Silvester Karimi, has been working 
in a very different environment — the moorland of the high Aberdares. 
This bleakly beautiful landscape is the stronghold of the Aberdare Cisticola, 
a little-known Kenyan endemic and Wenceslas's study bird. 

Paul Matiku, Joseph Oyugi and Alfred Simiyu studied the East Coast 
Akalat, Kakamega forest birds and sandgrouse populations, respectively. 
Simiyu will now join fellow Kenyan Muchai Muchane in Cape Town to 
work for his PhD at the Percy Fitzpatrick Institute of Field Ornithol- 
ogy. With support from the African Wildlife Foundation, 
Simiyu will be looking at the effect of different types of 
land-use management on game-bird demography. 
Kiptoo Kosgey and Mwangi Githiru 
worked respectively on Turner's Eremomela 
and avian frugivory in the Taita Hills. Some 
larf^srdata. were collected during 
Kasigau 1998, an expedition to 
Mt Kasigau by a joint team from the 
Ornithology Department and the 
University of East Anglia (and 
winner of the BP Expedi- 
tion Award in the Tropi- 
cal Forests category). 
Mwangi has been 


Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 

awarded a Rhodes Scholarship to the University of Oxford, where he in- 
tends to work for his PhD in zoology. He will be back in Kenya, however, 
for fleldwork on the White- starred Robin in. . .yes, the Taita Hills! By look- 
ing at the effects of forest fragmentation on a relatively widespread forest 
bird like the robin, Mwangi hopes ^^t^^ to gain insights into why 
other species have become lc 

Another team member of 
Kasigau, Ronald Mulwa, has 
back in the field in the Taita 
(and in Kasigau again) to study the 
threatened Taita White-eye Zosterops 
silvanus. This is the most wide-spread 
of the Taita endemic birds, and es- 
pecially abundant on 
Kasigau — it can be seen 
there in flocks of 150 or 
more. Mulwa's work 
shows that the white-eyes 
forage both high in forest 
trees and in scrub around 

the forest edge. They seem to prefer Branehe^loaded with epiphyt 
which they glean tiny insects. Mulwa, who is working for his MSc at 
Kenyatta University, is supported by grants from the Royal Society for the 
Protection of Birds and the Wildlife Conservation Society, and by the Taita 
Hills Biodiversity Project. The white-eye field team currently includes Fred 
Barasa and George Eshiamwata. 

Edward Waiyaki continued his PhD work on the Taita Thrush, after a 
visit to Antwerp University in April 1998. Six Department staff and interns 
were able to visit the project during August and September 1 998 and gained 
valuable experience in radio-telemetry work (and in moving at speed up 
near-vertical hillsides...). 

In October 1998 Peter Njoroge began work for his PhD at Reading 
University. He stayed in Reading for only a month before heading back to 
the tropics to start field-work on Seychelles Magpie Robins Copsychus 
sechellarum — one of the world's rarest birds — and has since spent half a 
year 'marooned' on Cousin Island where the species has been re-intro- 


Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 it 

duced. Njoroge passed through the Department in May 1 999 and gave an 
interesting seminar on the robins. His verdict on the Seychelles so far? 
"Too many mosquitoes and too much fish." However, he has now learned 
how to swim... 

From June to August 1 999 Department researchers George Amutete and 
Joseph Oyugi were, quite coincidentally, on separate training programmes 
in Chicago, USA. Amutete was based at the Field Museum of Natural His- 
tory as a follow-up to a MacArthur biodiversity training course in Budongo 
Forest, Uganda the previous year. The main focus was collection manage- 
ment and taxidermy: we hope he will now be training all the staff how to 
make perfect study skins. Oyugi was taking part in a course on biodiversity 
conservation run by the Field Museum, Chicago Zoo and the University of 

Luca Borghesio pushed ahead with his work on northern Kenyan for- 
ests, with surveys in Leroghi Forest, the Karissia Hills and Mt Kulal (ac- 
companied by Kariuki Ndang'ang'a), and a reconnaissance trip to the Ndotto 
Hills. Kariuki himself left the Taita Thrush project in September 1998 to 
take up the IBA Research Fellow position vacated by Peter Njoroge. Daina 
Samba stepped into his place in Taita; she has now won a Wellcome Trust 
Biodiversity Conservation Fellowship and leaves for her MSc course at 
Reading University this October. However, Daina will be returning to the 
hills after that to study the Taita Apalis — the most threatened of the Taita 

Last but not least, Alfred Owino joined the Department in April 1 998 as 
a Research Fellow with the waterbird count project. He will be a familiar 
face by now to anyone who has taken part in the counts. 

'Fundamentals' forges on 

The Department's regular programme of training courses continues. *Fun- 
damentals of Ornithology' nos. 4 and 5 were held at Elsamere Field Stud- 
ies Centre, Naivasha, from 26 May to 2 June 1998 and 22-29 April 1999. 
The thirty-six participants included professional guides and naturalists, safari 
operators and birders interested in brushing up their skills. Several field 
visits were fitted in, to the lake, Hell's Gate and Kieni Forest (fortunately 
in drier weather than in 1997!), and the courses ended with the now-tradi- 
tional ceremony where participants receive their 'scientific names'. For 
the first time, the 1 999 course was organised together with Nature Kenya. 

12 Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 

'Fundamentals' no. 6 is scheduled for the end of April 2000 — anyone who 
is interested should contact the Ornithology Department. An updated set of 
course notes is also available. 

The field course 'An introduction to gamebird biology' also saw a suc- 
cessful repeat. The location switched from Kajiado to another district rich 
in gamebirds, Laikipia, at the Mpala Ranch Research Centre. From 24 April 
to I May 1 998, 1 3 potential gamebird scouts from ranches and community 
projects in Laikipia, Samburu and Marsabit Districts were trained by a 
team led by Alfred Simiyu. Support came from the COBRA project of the 
United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The course 
aimed to teach appropriate skills for gamebird monitoring and manage- 
ment, and also to demonstrate the potential of bird shooting for revenue 

Hot off the press 

The following new research reports are available from the Ornithology 

No. 29. Distribution, densities and habitat preferences of three gamebird species 

on Imbirikani group ranch, Kajiado. (Matiku, P., Simiyu, A. & Bennun, L., 

No. 30. The avifauna and conservation status of South Nandi forest, Kenya. 

(Waiyaki, E., 1998.) 
No. 31. Monitoring of waterbirds in central Kenya, July 1995 and January 1996. 

(Nasirwa, O., 1998.) 
No. 32. Monitoring of waterbirds in central Kenya, July 1996 and January 1997. 

(Oyugi, J.O. & Owino, A.O., 1998.) 
No. 33. Monitoring of waterbirds in Kenya, July 1997 and January 1998. (Oyugi, 

JO. & Owino, A.O., 1998.) 
No. 34. Monitoring of waterbirds in Kenya, July 1998 and January 1999. (Oyugi, 

J.O. & Owino, A.O., 1999.) 
No. 35. Avifauna of the lower Tana River forests: a preliminary survey. (Oyugi, 

J.O. &Amutete,A., 1999.) 

Bye-bye, CJ 

Colin Jackson, our VSO Training and Records Officer, left the Department 
in April 1998 after almost four extremely full years. Happily there was no 
need for tearful good-byes, as Colin hasn't gone far — just a few hundred 
kilometres south-east, to Watamu. There he is busy setting up a bird ob- 

Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 


servatory, Mwamba, that will operate under the A Rocha Trust. Not that he 
isn't greatly missed: but CJ remains a Research Associate of the Depart- 
ment and an Editor of Kenya Birds, so we will be working very closely 
with him in the future. — Leon Bennun. 

For more information about Mwamba Bird Observatory and A Rocha, con- 
tact Colin Jackson atPO Box 383, Watamu — e-mail 

Bird Committee 

Small grants scheme 

The Bird Committee has established guidelines for its small grant scheme 

(available from the Nature 
cations will now be consid- 
October. The first award un- 
Joel Ng'ida for a 

Black- faced Sandgrouse 

Kenya office). Short-listed appli- 
ered twice a year, in April and 
der this scheme was made to 
project entitled 'Abundance and 
of gamebird populations at moni- 
ing sites on Mbirikani Group 
Ranch, Kajiado District'. Unfor- 
tunately far more applications 
have already been received than 
the Committee can support — 
-but it will try to put applicants 
^**~~irr touch with other sources of 
funding where appropriate. 

Ngulia 1998 

It was another busy ringing season at Ngulia. . . the following notes are 
extracted from a report compiled by Graeme Backhurst (Organiser, Ring- 
ing Scheme of Eastern Africa, P O Box 15194, Nairobi). 

Although the first eight days yielded fewer than 500 migrants, the sea- 
son eventually turned out to be the second best ever, with a total of 20,313 
Palaearctic and 1 ,609 Afrotropical birds ringed — plus five ringed birds 
from four overseas schemes. 

The first ringers arrived on 1 3 November, augmented on 1 5 November 
by a contingent from the National Museums plus the first of the season's 

14 Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 

Earthwatch teams. They spent the first eight days and nights looking at the 
sky, refining the net rides, putting up more nets, studying bulbuls and some- 
how managing to catch and ring 472 migrants! The weather was to blame 
for this small number, with virtually no mist at night. All this changed from 
22 November, when the mist did its stuff every night and good catches 
resulted, including three days each with over 2,000 birds. 

As well as the usual Marsh Warblers and Sprossers, there were excel- 
lent numbers of Nightingales, Rufous Bush Chats, Iranias, Rock Thrushes, 
Spotted Flycatchers, Olivaceous, Olive-tree and Barred Warblers, 
Whitethroats and Red-backed and Red-tailed Shrikes. Unusual species in- 
cluded a magnificent female Eurasian Sparrowhawk (the second Ngulia 
record), two Corncrakes and an Asian Lesser Cuckoo. 

Catches on the 27th and 24th (2,464 and 2,463) were the second and 
third highest ever — but still some way behind the record 3,131 ringed on 
20 November 1995. 

Conditions continued good after most of the group had left on 27 No- 
vember, with over 2,000 more migrants ringed between then and 2 Decem- 
ber despite the diminished manpower, very wet conditions and a nearly 
full moon. 

The second session was from 1 5-26 December, when a Museums group, 
assisted by Earthwatch volunteers, ringed 7,000 more migrants. Numbers 
fell off along with the mist after 21 December. Marsh Warbler again pre- 
dominated, followed by Whitethroat, Sprosser and River Warbler. There 
were very good numbers of some other warblers: Garden (55), Basra Reed 
(114), Great Reed (7) and Sedge (6 — there had been none in the first 
session). Exciting captures included a male Eurasian Sparrowhawk, a Eura- 
sian Scops Owl and a Common Redstart. 

The first session produced an amazing (and unprecedented) five birds 
with foreign rings. There were Marsh Warbler controls from the Nether- 
lands (one) and Belgium (two), a Sprosser from Sweden (the first Swedish- 
ringed Sprosser to south of northern Egypt, and the longest and most north- 
erly movement of any Ngulia bird), and an Italian Marsh Warbler found 
dead in the lodge. Only three birds ringed in previous Ngulia seasons were 
retrapped: a Sprosser and a Marsh Warbler in November which had been 
ringed in November the previous year, and a Whitethroat in December from 
December 1996. 

Nightingales (138) and Common Rock Thrushes (59) were caught in 
record numbers this year, with second-best ever yearly numbers for 

Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 15 

Corncrake (2), Tree Pipit (20), Rufous Bush Chat ( 1 44), Irania (683), Spotted 
Flycatcher (278), Basra Reed Warbler (173), Barred Warbler (151) and 
Willow Warbler (302). 

It was the best-ever year for Afrotropical birds ringed — the total of 
1,609 was 449 more than in 1995. The total included no fewer than 681 
Common Bulbuls, which thronged the lodge during the first, dry week of 
the November session. From the proportion of ringed birds sighted around 
the lodge there were estimated to be about 1 ,500 bulbuls in the surround- 
ing bush. Apart from the bulbuls, birds of interest included the second ever 
Black Cuckoo and the second and third ever Klaas's Cuckoos, six Grey- 
headed Kingfishers, eight Golden Pipits and five Grassland Pipits, three 
Red-capped Robin Chats, 11 African Paradise Flycatchers and 17 Somali 
Golden-breasted Buntings. 

This season's efforts brought the number of Ngulia recoveries and con- 
trols to the respectable total of 105. There will surely be quite a few more 
to come — the 17,232 birds ringed in 1997 have brought in only one con- 
trol so far, and there have been five from the 18,344 birds ringed in 1996. 
From past experience, recoveries and controls away from Ngulia often take 
several years to come in. (Since writing this we have just had notification 
of a Barn Swallow, ringed at Ngulia in December 1996 and controlled at 
the Chokpak Pass Ornithological Station in Kazakhstan in September 1998.) 


Thanks are due to the lodge management, as always, to Kenya Wildlife 
Service, British Airways Assisting Conservation and Earthwatch. The Mu- 
seums team wishes to thank the Kenya Museum Society and the Bird Com- 
mittee of the EANHS, who each sponsored two ringers to participate. 

A long way from home 

Ringing organiser Graeme Backhurst reports two additional recent records, 
in addition to those in the Ngulia account above: 

• A Barn Swallow ringed at Ngulia in December 1996 was controlled 

(i.e. recaptured and released) at Chokpak, Kazakhstan on 22 Septem- 
ber 1998. 

• A colour-ringed Lesser Black-backed Gull observed by Malcolm 

Wilson at Kazinga, Queen Elizabeth National Park, Uganda, on 18 and 
19 January 1999. It had been ringed as a nestling at Sahalahti, Hame, 
Finland on 23 June 1996. 

16 Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 

Raptor Working Group and Waterbird Working Group 

The Bird Committee has agreed to set up working groups on raptors and 
waterbirds, to be co-ordinated by Munir Virani and Oliver Nasirwa respec- 
tively. Working groups tend to be only as effective as the people who are 
involved in them are enthusiastic — if you are interested in becoming in- 
volved in either group, please contact Munir or Oliver via the Department 
of Ornithology. 

IBA bursary scheme 

The Bird Committee has set up a fund to help support the secondary school 
education of needy students who are closely involved with IBA Site Sup- 
port Groups, and who have the potential to contribute substantially to bird 
conservation in the future. Several donations have already been received 
for the fund, but more are needed — if you would like to help, please 
contact the Nature Kenya office. The first bursary recipient is Dominic 
Kamau Kimani, a student at Kimuri Secondary School who is one of the 
founder members of the Friends of Kinangop Plateau. 

Nature Kenya 

Strategic plan wrapped up 

Nature Kenya finalised its four-year strategic plan in March 1 999. The plan 
has seven major components, including identifying and documenting 
biodiversity priorities, and taking action for the protection of key species, 
sites and habitats. As far as birds are concerned, much of this work is al- 
ready underway as part of the Important Bird Areas programme with Glo- 
bal Environment Facility support. 

Important Bird Areas in Kenya 

Work on the Important Bird Areas programme in Kenya has now really 
taken off. The programme works at two levels, local and national. Locally, 
it is stimulating conservation action at particular sites, especially by work- 
ing with 'site support groups'. Nationally, it is linking up with other or- 
ganisations to put IB As on the conservation agenda. The main funding for 
the programme comes from the project "African NGO-Government Part- 
nerships for Sustainable Biodiversity Conservation", which is supported 
by the Global Environment Facility through the United Nations Develop- 
ment Programme. 

Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 17 

The two strands of the IB A programme are co-ordinated by Nature Kenya 
staff Solomon Mwangi (Sites Conservation Officer) and Paul Matiku (Con- 
servation Promotion Officer). Both have been extremely busy since they 
began work in April 1 998. A few highlights of the last year and a half are 
outlined below. 

National Liaison Committee 

The IBA National Liaison Committee developed out of the existing IBA 
Advisory Council. It provides a forum for discussing biodiversity conser- 
vation, bringing together more than 20 Government departments and non- 
government organisations involved in various ways with IBA conserva- 
tion. The NLC has so far held five successful meetings. 

Poster spreads the IBA message 

Members of the NLC co-ordinated the design and production of a colour- 
ful IBA poster, targeted at schools and Government offices. It features Edwin 
Selempo's paintings of four IB As with their special birds (Lesser Flamingo 
at Lake Turkana, Turner's Eremomela in South Nandi Forest, Jackson's 
Widowbird in the Kinangop Grasslands and Clarke's Weaver in Arabuko- 
Sokoke Forest). The poster was printed in October 1998 and so far around 
4,000 copies have been distributed country-wide. A curriculum guide for 
schools has been produced to accompany the poster, so that it can be used 
effectively as a teaching aid. 

SSG network growing 

Nature Kenya is now working with local conservation groups at seven IB As. 
These include the Arabuko-Sokoke Forest Guides Association (Arabuko- 

Sokoke Forest), Burguret Youth for Conservation (Mt Kenya), Friends of 
Kinangop Plateau (Kinangop Grasslands), Kakamega Biodiversity Con- 
servation and Tour Operators Association (Kakamega Forest), Kijabe En- 
vironment Volunteers (Kikuyu Escarpment Forest), North Lake Bird Track- 
ers and South Lake Birdwatching Group (Lake Naivasha) and Sunset Birders 
(Lake Victoria). The programme is also collaborating with Rural Initiaves 
for Sustainable Development (RISDEV), an NGO working around South 
and North Nandi Forests. 

These groups are diverse in their membership, history and activities. 
However, they also have many features (and challenges) in common. A 
workshop to bring them together was held at Naivasha from 19-21 No- 

18 Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 

vember. Eighteen participants attended from six different site groups. This 
gave a chance for people to interact, share experiences and identify com- 
mon problems. The links between groups have been consolidated since 
then by a number of exchange visits. 

The groups are carrying out various work on the ground, including moni- 
toring, awareness-raising and education. The Kakamega group has started 
an environmental education project with support from the African Bird 
Club. This focuses on schools next to the forest: members talk to school- 
children about the forest and its importance, and guide them on forest walks 
so they can experience Kakamega's rich biodiversity at first hand. In 
Kinangop, the Friends are implementing a similar project with funding 
from the RSPB. As well as schools, they are targeting the wider commu- 
nity in an awareness campaign focused on Sharpe's Longclaw. This Ken- 
yan endemic bird relies on tussocky grassland, the original habitat in 
Kinangop but one that is fast disappearing. Kinangop farmers own the land 
on which the longclaws live, so their support is vital if the birds are to be 

Priorities for conservation action 

Kenya has 60 IB As, all of which need conservation attention. However, 
resources are scarce — we need to know where to concentrate our effort 
most urgently. To decide this, Nature Kenya organised a workshop to set 
priorities for action among the IB As. Fourteen biologists and conserva- 
tionists from eight institutions travelled to the Kenya Wildlife Service Train- 
ing Institute, Naivasha on 7 December for a two-day get-together. Partici- 
pants discussed and agreed on a methodology for setting priorities, before 
settling down to brass tacks and working through the list of sites. The re- 
sult was a set of scores for threat and for biological importance — combin- 
ing these gives a list of priorities. Sites were classed in three categories of 
priority, Critical, Urgent and High — it being recognised that all IB As are, 
by definition, conservation priorities. Appropriate conservation actions were 
also suggested, some suitable for all sites (such as monitoring, and aware- 
ness-raising for decision-makers), others perhaps only feasible for the sub- 
set of Critical sites (such as Integrated Conservation and Development 

Many of the sites on the Critical list are hardly surprises — they include 
Kakamega Forest, Mt Kenya and the Taita Hills forests, for example. Oth- 
ers have received much less conservation attention, such as the Mau Narok/ 

Keny^Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 


Molo Grasslands and Busia 

Grasslands. The analysis clearly shows 

that the most threatened habitats in 

ya are forests and grasslands — 

en though many forests are officially 
protected as Forest Reserves, this has 
not stopped extensive destruction and 

Although extremely hard work for 
everyone who was there, the priority- 
sejting workshop succeeded in setting 

clear and justifiable agenda for IB A 
conservation — and in developing a 
straightforward methodology that can 
perhaps be applied elsewhere in Africa. 

databases take shape 
Kariuki Ndang'ang'a has been busy 
collecting data for the Important Bird 
Areas bape^and computer databases. The paper database now contains 
copies d>Miterature on Kenya's 60 IBAs, and sits in a filing cabinet in the 
Nature^enya office. Published or unpublished information on particular 
sites is often scattered and hard to locate, so the aim is to bring as much of 
it as possible together in one place — or at least to provide directions as to 
where it can be found. If you know of material on IBAs that may not be in 
the collection, Kariuki would be pleased to hear from you. 

IB A directory on the way 

The IB A directory lumbers on. . . The text and maps for the 60 site accounts 
were finished by March 1998. Unfortunately, there turned out to be major 
technical problems in translating the maps to the typesetting software be- 
ing used. Solving these, and completing the introduction, took another full 
year. However, after several false starts, the directory is now really ex- 
pected to go to press in September 1999. The original plan to produce it in 
full colour has been abandoned as too costly, but the illustrations (line draw- 
ings by Edwin Selempo and Brian Small) and tables will be in tasteful 
shades of blue. Watch this space. . . 

20 Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 

Milk, grass and longclaws 

Bird conservation is nowadays ever more enmeshed with wider issues of 
policy and economics. This is especially so outside protected areas. In the 
Kinangop Grasslands IBA, the grassland habitat that supports Sharpe's 
Longclaw and other grassland birds has been giving way rapidly to culti- 
vation. Recent studies have estimated a conversion rate of between six and 
nine percent of grassland each year, which is startlingly high. What is driv- 
ing this rapid change in land use? 

To start obtaining a grip on this question, Nature Kenya invited two of 
the RSPB's experts on agriculture and land-use to visit the plateau. The 
idea was to develop a better understanding of the key issues surrounding 
agriculture and land use change in Kinangop, and map out what further 
research might be needed. Accordingly, Matt Rayment and Giovanna Pisano 
spend several days in early March 1 999 with colleagues from Nature Kenya 
and the Friends of Kinangop Plateau. They spoke to farmers and dairy co- 
operative administrators, seeing at first hand the land-use issues on the 

Although very preliminary, the findings bring some good news for 
Sharpe's Longclaw — dairy farming is likely to remain the dominant enter- 
prise in Kinangop. Most farmers do not want to convert all of their land to 
arable production, as the risk of crops failing completely is to great. Prob- 
lems in the dairy industry, mainly to do with milk marketing, have caused 
farmers to convert some of their land in order to diversify and avoid rely- 
ing too much on one source of income. 

Though dairy farming has become less attractive in the last decade, it 
remains the preferred enterprise for many farmers. It is less labour inten- 
sive and generally less difficult than arable farming on Kinangop. The con- 
servation implications are clear — if the milk market became more attrac- 
tive and reliable, the dairy sector would grow, and so would the incentives 
to maintain grassland as pasture. Nature Kenya is now working with the 
Friends of Kinangop Plateau and a local dairy co-operative to put together 
a project to improve milk cooling facilities. This would allow farmers to 
gain greater economic rewards from their livestock and discourage land 
conversion. Access to the facilities would also be tied in to mechanisms to 
ensure responsible land management that benefits the longclaws. 

Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 21^ 

BirdLife International 

Council of the African Partnership 

There are now seven BirdLife Partner organisations in Africa: BirdLife 
South Africa, Conservation Society of Sierra Leone, Ghana Wildlife Soci- 
ety, Ethiopian Wildlife and Natural History Society, Nature Kenya, Nature 
Uganda, and the Wildlife Conservation Society of Tanzania. Representa- 
tives of these organisations met as the newly-foimed Council of the Afri- 
can Partnership at Mazvikadei, Zimbabwe, in June 1998, and at Kompiegna, 
Burkina Faso, in June 1 999. Among other decisions, Partners recommended 
that BirdLife Zimbabwe, Naturama (Burkina Faso), the Nigerian Conser- 
vation Foundation and Association Les Amis des Oiseaux (Tunisia) be- 
come BirdLife Partners Designate. The Chair of Council for 1999/2000 is 
Souleymane Zeba of Naturama. At its June 1999 meeting, CAP also nomi- 
nated Souleymane as Global Council member for the period 1999-2003, 
and Aldo Berruti (BirdLife South Africa) for election as Council Member- 
at-large. These nominations will be put forward for confirmation by the 
entire Partnership during the World Partnership meeting in Malaysia in 
October 1999. 

BirdLife Seychelles receives GEF funding 

Approval of the US$1 million Avian Ecosystems Management Project for 
the newly created BirdLife Seychelles Office has been received from the 
Global Environment Facility (GEF) Council via the implementing agency, 
the World Bank. The GEF Council will provide a grant of US$740,000 
over the next three years and the Seychelles government will supply over 
$100,000 of field assistance, project accounting and administration input. 
BirdLife Seychelles will provide about $150,000 in scientific expertise and 
management input. 

The aim is to restore the Granitic Seychelles Endemic Bird Area. It is 
one of the first medium-sized GEF projects to be approved. The project 
will include research on three critically threatened species, including Sey- 
chelles Magpie-Robin Copsychus sechellarum, and will undertake island 
assessments with subsequent restoration of at least one islands. 

22 Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 

Satellite tracking of Black-faced Spoonbills 

The first signals have been received from one of six critically threatened 
Black-faced Spoonbills Platalea m inor fitted with a satellite transmitter. In 
May 1 998, signals were received from a bird migrating through southern 
Zhejiang Province, China, from its wintering grounds in Taiwan where the 
transmitter was fitted. 

So far, six birds have been fitted with transmitters in a joint tracking 
project. Three birds are being tracked from Tsangwen Estuary, Taiwan, and 
three from Mai Po Marshes in Hong Kong. The project has also colour 
ringed these birds, as well as a further 10 birds at Mai Po and one bird at 

Sightings of Black-faced Spoonbills in Kenya are unlikely — to say the 
least! But anyone who comes across one of these colour-ringed birds should 
report sightings to the Wild Bird Society of Japan ( 

New BirdLife project at Mont Peko, Cote d'lvoire 

BirdLife is undertaking a new project at Mont Peko National Park, Cote 
dTvoire. The contract provides technical assistance for park management 
and a preliminary biological and socio-economic survey will aid planning 
of subsequent work. A key element will be to integrate surrounding 
populations into park activities. 

Mont Peko is one of three protected areas being funded by the European 
Commission for an initial two years. The project forms part of a larger 
multi-donor programme co-ordinated by the World Bank and the PCGAP 
to revitalise the National Park sector in Cote d'lvoire. 

Mont Peko National Park is a small block (34,000 ha) of Upper Guinean 
Forest centred on a series of granite inselbergs. This habitat, forming one 
of Africa's two major lowland rainforest regions, originally covered most 
of Sierra Leone, south-east Guinea, Liberia, southern Cote d'lvoire and 
south-west Ghana. It has now largely been cleared and the remaining for- 
est is severely threatened. 

As more surveys are carried out in the Mont Peko area, it is very likely 
to be recognised as an Important Bird Area (IB A) — one of the species 
already found there is the vulnerable White-necked Rockfowl Picathartes 
gymnocephalus. This arresting bird, endemic to the Upper Guinea forest 
zone, breeds in small colonies in caves and on rock faces under rainforest 
cover. The discovery at Mont Peko is significant, as this is only the fourth 
known site for the species in Cote d'lvoire. 

Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 23 

Birding in... Embu 

J. H. Burrell 
Thika High School, Private Bag, Thika 

[Editors' note: This article is based on J.H. Burrell's birdwatching in and 
around Embu from January 1974 to October 1982. Why are we publishing 
information that is nearly two decades 'out of date'? In part because it 
may help to focus attention on a part of Kenya that has been largely ne- 
glected by birdwatchers; also because much of the 'gen' may still be useful 
and valid; and because we would like to know what changes have taken 
place since 1982. Eor that reason, too, we are listing the bird species in 
more detail than usual (for obvious reasons these records are unchecked!). 
If anyone does visit the sites described here, please write and let us know 
what you find in terms of habitat, routes and bird species. . . and we '11 pub- 
lish the details in future issues.] 

Dry country birds of Embu-M beere Districts 

The Siakago Road 

From the 'Isaac Walton Inn' drive down to Embu town and turn left at the 
Shell Garage along the Kitui/Siakago road. At a point approx 6 km from 
your start the Kitui road branches right — keep straight on for Siakago. 
From now on anything might turn up if you stop to check for it either side 
of the road, but two very good areas are to be found as follows: 

1. Approximately 18 km from your starting point you will come to a 
small bridge. Cross over this and pull on the left. Walk anywhere in this 
area, following the course of the river bed (usually dry). The river can be 
crossed at several points and then a circular walk is possible to bring you 
back to the road and bridge. 

2. Proceed for another 4 km and you reach another good area. Park at 
the side of the road and explore both sides. 

These are rich sites, at which more than 1 85 species have been recorded. 
Some of the more notable ones include Peregrine, African Hobby, Euro- 
pean Hobby, Common Kestrel, Wahlberg's Eagle, Tawny Eagle, Steppe 
Eagle, Brown Snake Eagle, Shelley's Francolin, Black-bellied Bustard, 

24 Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 

African Cuckoo, European Cuckoo, Great Spotted Cuckoo, Black-and-white 
Cuckoo, Levaillant's Cuckoo, Violet-crested Turaco, Brown Parrot, Brown- 
hooded Kingfisher, Violet Wood Hoopoe, Bearded Woodpecker, Scarce 
Swift, Horus Swift, Tree Pipit, Hindes' Babbler, Olivaceous Warbler, Icterine 
Warbler, Upcher's Warbler, Wood Warbler, Moustached Warbler, Green- 
capped Eremomela, Tiny Cisticola, Siffling Cisticola, White-headed Saw- 
wing, White-crested Helmet-shrike, Lesser Grey Shrike, European Golden 
Oriole, African Golden Oriole, Marico Sunbird, Mouse-coloured and Afri- 
can Penduline Tits, African Firefinch, Paradise Whydah and Broad-tailed 
Paradise Wyhdah. [Editors' note: this last species was recorded from Meru 
District in the 1940s, but there are no other recent records from Kenya! — 
time to look again ?] 

The Kitui road 

Along the Kitui road from the turn-off the species are generally similar, but 
with some notable additions such as Scaly Chatterer and Steel-blue and 
Straw-tailed Wyhdahs 

The dams 

From the 'Isaac Walton' a journey of about 53 km along the Kitui road will 
take you to Kamburu Dam. At the dam itself, park first on the Embu side 
and walk round the bush to the left and the foreshore to the right. Then park 
on the dam itself to scan the spillway to the left. Finally, cross the dam, 
park on the right and scan the bush and foreshore to the right. As well as the 
bush birds to be seen along the Siakago and Kitui roads, numerous 
waterbirds are likely including the two cormorants, Little, Yellow-billed 
and Great Egrets, Woolly-necked Stork, Water Dikkop and Giant Kingfisher. 
Continuing towards Kitui for a couple of kilometres, a sharp left turn 
takes you to Kindaruma. Stop at the first small bridge over a large dry 
watercourse to look for Verreaux's Eagle-Owl, Bare-eyed Thrush and Black- 
bellied Sunbird. Along the shoreline before Kindaruma Dam itself is reached 
there is usually a variety of waterbirds, including Three-banded and 
Spurwing Plover and (in season) numerous migrant waders. Osprey has 
also been recorded here. Notable birds in the scrub and bush include Banded 
Snake Eagle, Golden-breasted Starling and Northern Grey Tit. 

Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 


Forest birds of Embu-Kerugoya Districts 

Irangi Forest 

From the 'Isaac Walton' agaiti 
from Embu on the Menu 
About 6 km travel will bri 
you to the small village of 
Mutindori. On the left, a 
well-defined murram 
road leads to St Mark's 
Teacher Training 

College. Follow this road 
towards the mountain, 
passing the college, 
Manyatta and 

Kianjakoma Tea 

Factories, and finally 
reaching the Irangi Forest 
barrier. One can park here and 
explore on foot, or find a forest 
worker to open the barrier so that you can drive a few kilometres into the 
forest. Numerous tracks and trails in the forest itself merit investigation. A 
full day is recommended for really good results: an early start can be very 
exciting if there has been some overnight rain during a dry spell. Interesting 
birdwatching can be guaranteed, but sightings can be slow and few and far 
between until one comes across mixed birds parties. The forest holds an 
excellent selection of highland forest and stream-side birds, including 
Ayres's Hawk-Eagle, African Crowned Eagle, Mountain Buzzard, Rufous- 
breasted Sparrowhawk, Bronze-naped Pigeon, Barred Long-tailed Cuckoo, 
White-headed Wood-hoopoe, Bar-tailed Trogon, Fine-banded Woodpecker, 
Mountain Wagtail, Mountain Greenbul, White-tailed Crested Flycatcher, 
Black-throated Apalis, Black-headed Apalis, Brown Woodland Warbler, 
African Hill Babbler, Hunter's Cisticola, Purple-throated Cuckoo- shrike, 
Black-fronted Bush-shrike, Montane Oriole, Kenrick's Starling, Waller's 
Starling, Olive Sunbird, Brown-capped Weaver, Yellow-bellied Waxbill, 
Abyssinian Crimson-wing, Thick-billed seed-eater and Grey-headed Negro- 

26 Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 

Njikiini Forest 

From the isaac Walton' take the main Nairobi Road out of Embu and across 
the Rupengazi Bridge. On climbing the hill which bears left, look out for a 
murram turn to the right where there are a few small shops. Proceed straight 
towards the mountain, following two undulating 'S' bends to left to right. 
On approaching the third of these, you will notice a small patch of natural 
forest on your left as the road bends left; on the right is cleared pine trees, 
straight ahead is swamp and natural forest. On the edges one can see Brown- 
backed Scrub Robin, Riippell's Robin-Chat, and Blue-headed Coucal. One 
has to walk through the forest as there are few well defined paths. Keep the 
swamp to your left and press on and up to meet a small stream; follow this 
to the right, and cross the stream by logs to enter a glade. Paths from this 
lead to pine forest, but by always bearing left one will eventually reach 
murram tracks and the main road, coming round in a circle back to one's 
car — recommended only for the intrepid and energetic! The birds are 
harder to see than at Irangi, fewer in number, and similar in composition. 
Notable species here are Lemon Dove, Narina's Trogon, Eastern Honey bird 
and Red-headed Bluebill. It is a pity that this largely unexplored and mys- 
terious forest is so difficult to access as it must contain some rarities. Once 
by chance, when lost, I found a small lake and swamp area inside thick 
forest but could not reach the water's edge — since then I have been un- 
able to rediscover it! 

Castle Forest 

Drive from Embu on the Nairobi road and at Samson's corner ( 1 2 km from 
town) turn sharp right on the Sagana road. Proceed for about 5 km, and just 
before Kutus take the right-hand tar road to Kirinyaga. About 6 km along 
this bear left onto murram and proceed on a rough road past Kabare Girls' 
School straight on to the forest (about 32 km from the tar in total). Con- 
tinue into the forest for a few kilometres until the 'Castle' is reached. Park 
and look around. The birds are similar to a combination of those found at 
Njikiini and Irangi but do include some additional species, such as Red- 
headed Parrot, Sharpe's and Abbott's Starlings, Mountain Yellow Warbler, 
Taccazze Sunbird, Black-headed Waxbill and Yellow-crowned Canary. 

Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 27 

Embu township and environs 

The town 

A variety of birds can be seen in and around the town centre, a useful 
viewing spot being the patio of the cafe at the back of the town hall. Around 
the treed area of the Provincial/District offices is a good spot to see Slen- 
der-billed Chestnut-winged Starlings. 

The Isaac Walton 

The gardens of the Isaac Walton hotel, just out of town on the Meru road, 
with their variety of flowers, plants, bushes and trees, attract a variety of 
birds. With a little effort a reasonably relaxed day can yield up to 50 spe- 
cies. Some notable species on the list include Little Sparrow Hawk, Scaly- 
throated Honeyguide and Garden Warbler. 

Kangaru School 

About 1 .5 km up the hill from the hotel is the large compound of Kangaru 
School with its farm land, coffee shamba and indigenous forest and bush, 
together with some fine jacaranda and eucalyptus trees. Turn right onto 
murram at the 'Staff houses' sign, then right again at the signpost and park 
off the lane. Walk down the lane, explore the school nature trail (on the 
left) cross the small stream, and proceed to the right through scattered bush 
into more open country. A stony outcrop affords a lovely view over Mbeere 
lands stretching out below and into the distance. Retracing one's steps, one 
comes back to a murram path (you will have crossed it on the outward 
journey.) If you go left up the hill you reach the D.D.C. houses on your 
right and have parkland, a nice pond and agricultural plots (on the Agricul- 
tural Research Station land) on your left. Winding Cisticola and African 
Water Rail occur at the pond. Follow the road to the tar and turn right to 
reach the Kangaru road to the right. Alternatively turn right at the murram 
road mentioned, go up the hill and then left through playing fields, bush, 
edge of forest and coffee, returning in a circle back to the road where the 
car is parked nearby. The staff houses' gardens are good for birds as well. 
Interesting species here include Bat Hawk, Lizard Buzzard, Scaly Francolin, 
African Wood Owl, Montane Nightjar, Lesser Honeyguide, Wahlberg's 
Honeybird, Yellow-bellied Greenbul, Grey-Olive Greenbul and Red-faced 


Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 

Agricultural Institute Farm Ponds 

Opposite the entrance to the D.D.C (District Development Centre) and 
Kangaru Staff house road, both on the right, is a murram road to the left, 
with the farm entrances on the right hand. Inside are two ponds with a good 
variety of waterbirds, including African Darter, Purple, Common Squacco 
and Black-crowned Night Herons, Black Crake and African Reed Warbler. 

Close to 400 species have been recorded in the general Embu area, though 
some of these are decidely unusual. The variety of habitats makes this a 
rich birdwatching site, and well worth exploring — especially with visits 
at different times of the year. 

Abbott's Starling 

Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 29 

Birding in... the Endashant Swamp 

Mark Mallalieu 
DFID, P O Box 30465, Nairobi 

Where in Kenya might you see African Crakes and Dwarf Bitterns along- 
side Rosy-patched Bush-shrikes and Bare-eyed Thrushes? Possibly only in 
and around the Endashant swamp, just an hour's drive from Nairobi. 
Endashant is a seasonal swamp just beyond the Ngong hills. It lies in a 
shallow basin of about 209 hectares, between steep cliffs on one side and a 
long rocky outcrop on the other, in dry Acacia-Commiphora country sparsely 
populated by nomadic Maasai and their herds. 

Being seasonal, the 'swamp' is, of course, often bone-dry. It appears to 
flood in years of good rains, probably from April or May, drying out again 
between July and October, depending on rainfall. 

Getting there 

Travel out to Ngong town, turning right at the T-junction in the town centre, 
then almost immediately bear right again where the road forks. Follow this 
road (dirt soon replaces tarmac, but it's usually passable by saloon car) 
round the edge of the Ngong hills and soon you are descending steeply 
across a hillside into Maasai country covered in camphor bushes ( 4 ol- 
leleshwa' in Maa). Have your binoculars handy from here: you should see 
Schalow's Wheatears on the road down the hill and Northern Anteater Chats 
a bit further on. After 10.8 kms, bear right where the road divides again 
(there is a sheet-iron covered church on your right here), and turn left after 
another 5 kms where there is an old sign marked 'Ngong rifle range'. Park 
after 4.4 kms by a small fenced pond, put your wellies on and walk in the 
direction of the Ngong hills. A scramble down a rocky bush-covered slope 
brings you to the swamp. 

The birds 

The last 8 km or so of the drive to Endashant are particularly exciting. In 
the early morning, there are hordes of small birds by the roadside: White- 
browed Scrub Robins, Purple Grenadiers, Speckle-fronted Weavers, Grey- 
capped Social Weavers and Yellow-rumped Seed-eaters are typical, Green- 


Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 



winged Pytilias not infre- 
quent, whilst abundant 
Grey Flycatchers and fre- 
quent Fawn-coloured 
arks perch near the tops 
the small trees. Capped 
Wheatears can sometimes 
e common in the open 
ountry just beyond the 
ning at the church, and 
Short-tailed Larks, 
Temminck's Coursers and 
Kori Bustards also occur 
here. There are three good- 
ies to look out for in the 
better- wooded areas: Tiny 
Cisticolas (which some- 
times perch conspicuously 
right on the tops of acacias), 
^.Southern Grosbeak Canar- 
ies (here at the northern 
edge of their range) and the 

very local Bush Pipit, whose small size is distinctive — but remember that 
Grassland and Long-billed Pipits also occur. Rocky outcrops hold Wailing 
Cisticolas, Cliff Chats and a pair or two of Common Kestrels and Augur 

As you walk down towards the swamp, look out for the noisy and nu- 
merous Banded Parisomas, D'Arnaud's Barbets, Slate-coloured Boubous, 
Brown-crowned Tchagras and Rosy-patched Bush-shrikes. Once at the 
swamp, birds to be seen depend very much on the conditions. In dry peri- 
ods, there may be Fischer's Sparrow-larks out on the dried mud. Depend- 
ing on the time of year, pools of water attract breeding or migrant waders. If 
there is plenty of cover for their nests, Red-billed Teals and White-faced 
Whistling Ducks may be found escorting tiny ducklings. If there is an ex- 
panse of open water as well, herons and storks occur (1 2 species have been 
recorded), including African Spoonbills, Glossy Ibises and the 'secretive' 
Dwarf Bittern which, if flushed, will land and stand motionless on the top 
of an acacia. Occasionally a pelican drops in (but not for long, as there are 

Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 31 

no fish). Whiskered Terns may be breeding, along with a few Maccoa Ducks 
and Black-necked Grebes (Little Grebes are far commoner, but the Great 
Crested Grebes which nested in the 1 970s sadly no longer occur). If there is 
dense grass and sedge growth, a few Little Rush Warblers and even African 
Reed Warblers may arrive and there are lots of Winding and Zitting 
Cisticolas, together with Cardinal Queleas and a few Yellow-crowned Bish- 

When water is scarce, muddy pools attract droves of estrilid finches such 
as Cut-throat Finches, Crimson-rumped, Black-faced and Common Wax- 
bills, and Grey-headed Silverbills, along with other small birds like Straw- 
tailed Whydahs. 

But the star birds are the rails, eight species of which have been found 
recently. When conditions are right, Common Moorhens, Red-knobbed 
Coots, Black Crakes and African Water Rails breed, whilst Lesser Moor- 
hens may do so. In the wet grassy margins, migrant African Crakes occur in 
May to July, sometimes in surprising numbers. But the two top birds are 
very hard to find, since they occur in deeply-flooded stands of grass and 
sedge and are notoriously difficult to flush. These are the enigmatic Striped 
Crake (not called Aenigmatolimnas marginalis for nothing!) and the tiny 
Baillon's Crake. Both species were present during May to July 1998, when 
the conditions may well have been exceptionally suitable. If you find flooded 
grassland, walk along the margins and hope that luck is with you! Avoid 
repeatedly 'thrashing' one area, though, as this will damage the vegetation. 

The wooded country around the swamp edge should not be neglected. 
Here there are Spotted Morning Thrushes, Grey Wren-warblers, Nubian 
Woodpeckers, White-headed Saw-wings, Beautiful Sunbirds and two more 
'specials': Red-throated Tits and Bare-eyed Thrushes, though neither can 
be guaranteed. Along the cliff-face on the far side of the swamp are breed- 
ing Egyptian Vultures, Lanner Falcons and occasional Verreaux's Eagles, 
together with flocks of Nyanza and Mottled Swifts. Nocturnal birds of the 
cliffs include Freckled Nightjars and Spotted Eagle Owls. 

A final note 

If you want to know more about the ecology of this strange and wonderful 
place, read the fascinating accounts by G.R. Cunningham-van Someren and 
Dave Richards in the Bulletins of the EANHS (1977, September/October 
and Vol 22(4) of December 1992). 

32 Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 


compiled by Colin Jackson 
P O Box 383, Watamu 

This section exists for the publication of interesting observations and for updates 
to A Bird Atlas of Kenya (Lewis & Pomeroy, 1989). All contributions are wel- 
comed. If you are sending in records for Kenya Birds, please consider the follow- 
ing guidelines. For (non-breeding) records of Afrotropical, oceanic and Palaearctic 
birds, please send in any observations with notes that you think are of interest, e.g. 
early / late dates for Palaearctic and intra-African migrants, unusual records for 
your area, or any unusually large or impressive movements of birds. We are keen 
to publish information of this kind. Records with information other than simply a 
list of birds are particularly interesting and valuable, e.g. "male singing from bush", 
or "4 seen in flock of Barn Swallows...", or "single adult and 2 immatures roost- 
ing with other terns" etc. . . The Editors will select records for publication accord- 
ing to the space available. All records are useful for supplementing the computer- 
ised database held in the Dept. of Ornithology, National Museums of Kenya, 
through which our knowledge of bird distribution and seasonality in Kenya will 
be improved. 

For breeding records, those of confirmed breeding are useful for ALL species, 
even the most common ones; records of probable breeding (nest-building, court- 
ship etc.) are only needed for rare species or ones where there are few breeding 
records. For definitions and codes of 'confirmed' and 'probable breeding', see 
Kenya Birds vol. 5(2), p. 82. Interesting records will be published here and the 
others stored by the EANHS for analysis of breeding seasons, success rates, habi- 
tat requirements etc. You are strongly urged to fill in a Nest Record Card at the 
same time. Much more detail can be recorded on a card, and if your record can be 
added to the card collection then it is of permanent value. Cards can be obtained 
free of charge from the EANHS Nest Record Scheme Organiser (see back page). 

For all records, including breeding records, please be as detailed as possible 
about dates and locations. If you have sightings from places not easily found on 
the map, please take the trouble to give the latitude and longitude of the site to as 
much precision as you can (preferably the nearest second of arc or better). This 
will allow us to use these as we update A Bird Atlas of Kenya. 

Supporting details and descriptions are always welcome for unusual records 
and will improve the chances of publication (see Kenya Birds vol. 4(2), p. 84 for 
suggestions on how to submit a record). Records of certain species in particular 
are requested for inclusion in this, report. These species are indicated in the new 
Check-list of the Birds of Kenya (EANHS 1996, available for KSh 100/= from the 

Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 33 

EANHS office) and records should be sent to the Records Officer at the Department 
of Ornithology, National Museums of Kenya. For particularly unusual sightings, 
supporting details (i.e. field notes, photographs etc.) will be needed for scrutiny 
by the Rarities Committee of the EANHS before the record can be accepted. 

Key to records 

For new atlas records, the species number as given in the atlas is placed in brack- 
ets after the name: e.g. Whinchat (A# 653). The new records themselves are indi- 
cated in square brackets. Codes are: pres, present (first record); post pres, present 
(first post- 1970 record); prob, probable breeding; conf, confirmed breeding; post 
conf, confirmed breeding (first since 1970); e.g. [conf 25B] indicates that the 
species is confirmed as breeding (and is therefore also present) in square 25B. 
Where scientific names are not stated (here and elsewhere in Kenya Birds) the 
English names follow the Check-list of the Birds of Kenya (3rd edition), EANHS, 
Nairobi 1996. 


* Water' seems to have dominated the scene for much of the period covered 
by this report. The shadow of El Nino fell darkly on the region, bringing 
the incredible amount of rain that swamped us from October 1997 until the 
long rains in May 1998. This led to vast areas of open water and flooded 
seasonal swamps in many parts of Kenya. For many people this was a 
disaster, but for wetland birds it was a 'gift from above' (literally!). Inter- 
estingly however, the numbers of wetland birds were extremely low at the 
'normal' sites country-wide, notably at the annual waterfowl census sites 
in the Rift Valley. Where had they all gone? With a number of records of 
wetland species turning up in 'desert' and savannah habitats, e.g. Black- 
headed Heron and Knob-billed Duck near Lokichogio and African Black 
Duck on the Athi Plains, it would seem likely that they dispersed nation- 
wide, spreading over much larger areas than usual to exploit the abundance 
of newly created wetland habitat. At the coast, the excessive rain turned the 
'dry' coastal forest of Arabuko-Sokoke into a wetland heaving with frogs 
and waterbirds, including the first Lesser Moorhen for the forest. Flufftails 
continued to be turned up by our resident crake specialists with a Streaky- 
breasted being found near Thika yet again. Seasonal swamps in the Rift 
Valley were brimming with water and attracted good numbers of waterbirds, 
illustrated by new records from pools in the Rift east and south of Magadi 
near the Meto Hills. All round it has been a 'waterbird year'. 

34 Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 

Another major event feature was World Birdwatch at the beginning of 
October 1997. For this, teams spread out all over the country and as many 
species as possible were recorded (see Kenya Birds vol. 6). This led to a 
flood of records including an impressive 80 new Atlas records. Highlights 
of the Birdwatch records include the re-discovery of the Black-and-white 
Flycatcher at Shimoni after 40 years or more, two Great Snipe (one in 
western Kenya and the other at the now well-visited Githumbwini Estate 
dam near Thika) and the first Grasshopper Buzzard record for western 

The flycatcher is the most spectacular of a set of species that have turned 
up recently after remaining unrecorded for long periods. A Sabine's Spinetail 
seen low along one of the forest tracks in Kakamega in late November 
1 997 is the first for many years — an intensive survey of the forest in 1 996 
failed to find them and the species was thought to be extirpated (i.e. locally 
extinct). Grey Parrots continue to be reported in ever increasing numbers 
from Kakamega too, this time 1 1 from Rondo Retreat Centre which is also 
encouraging considering the intensive pressure that the forest is under. A 
pair of Orange- winged Pytilia in the Shimba Hills in August 1997 is also 
the first record of this species at the coast since December 1 990, though the 
species has been seen more regularly in its regular western Kenya site, 
west of the Kongelai Escarpment. In that same area near Makutano, how- 
ever, the site for the Spotted Creeper is fast becoming degraded with trees 
cut down and undergrowth cleared, so that it is becoming much harder to 
find the Creeper — and there are not many other sites known for this bird. 

Birders visiting the Lokichogio area recorded a number of interesting 
species including White-rumped Swift — a long way from anywhere it has 
been previously seen and most likely a wanderer, Grey-headed Silverbill, 
Steel-blue Whydah (presumably from the population in north-east Uganda) 
and the two wetland species mentioned above. A Lesser Kestrel seen in 
March 1998 in the same area was also a new Atlas record, though it fits 
with most other sightings in being during the northward migration and in 
the Rift Valley / western Kenya. 

The Violet-tipped Courser in Mara is a noteworthy record. This scarce 
species is thought to be mostly an intra- African migrant from the southern 
tropics, but due to its nocturnal habits and low numbers is rarely seen. 
Most records have been from further east, notably the Tsavo region down 
to the coast, making this record particularly unusual. Another relatively 

Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 35 

little-known and seldom-seen species is the Common Button-quail, for 
which there is a breeding record from Lewa Downs near Isiolo (an adult 
with young). 

Finally, there were a number of interesting Palaearctic records. A Red- 
necked Phalarope turned up in the 'usual' site at Lake Nakuru but a Terek 
Sandpiper in Amboseli was out of the ordinary — all previous inland records 
are from the Rift Valley. Observers studying Taita Thrushes in the Taita 
Hills were distracted by a Chiffchaff singing overhead one day in February 
1 998, again a very unusual record for this uncommon species, which is 
normally recorded in the central highlands. One of the less common 
Palaearctic migrant raptors, the Eurasian Honey Buzzard, distracted the 
same observers in the Taitas, and two together were seen low overhead 
near Busia on the World Birdwatch weekend in October. These are both 
good records for this interesting bird. A Corncrake at the end of January 
1 998 on the Athi plains is an odd record as this uncommon species is more 
of a passage migrant than a wintering one. However, the date suggests the 
bird was possibly wintering in the area. 

Overall it has been a good period with a number of interesting observa- 
tions that continue to build up the picture of the distribution and status of 
the birds in Kenya. Many thanks go to those who submitted records — 
please continue to do so! 

Afrotropical species 

Audubon's Shearwater: Watamu, off- lated occurrence in this normally arid 

shore from Blue Lagoon, 1/1/98, TB area; these birds are a long way from 

— these beautiful seabirds are only where they are usually recorded nearer 

seen offshore and are therefore not fre- L. Turkana. 

quently reported. Saddle-billed Stork: Lewa Downs, 

Long-tailed Cormorant ( A# 22): [pres Isiolo, 4/1 0/97, KM 

101A] Tsavo East NP, 4-5/10/97, JC Glossy Ibis (A# 56): [pres 51C] Lewa 

Rufous-bellied Heron: 21/6/98, Downs, Isiolo, 4/10/97, KM 

Musiara Swamp, Masai Mara, WO, African Spoonbill (A#57): [pres 6 IB] 

MB — a regular site for this species Rongai, Rift Valley, 4/10/97, J&HO 

Yellow-billed Egret (A# 38): [pres White-faced Whistling Duck (A# 62): 

114C] Funzi-Wasini Island area, [pres 76C] Game Ranching Ltd, Athi 

Shimoni, 4-5/10/97, DF River, 4/10/97, WV, TM; [pres 51C] 

Black-headed Heron (A# 43): [pres Kahurura Forest, William Holden Edu- 

2C] 1 5 on plains E of Lokichogio, 20/ cation centre, Nanyuki, 4-5/10/97, FM 

6/98, MM — probably an El Nino-re- Knob-billed Duck (A# 66): [pres 2C] 


Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 

I on plains E of Lokichogio, 20/6/98, 
MM — this bird would probably have 
been attracted to this unusual area due 
to the El Nino rains that flooded many 
African Black Duck: Athi plains 
flooded by El Nino, early 1/98, ST — 
the El Nino not only caused confusion 
and chaos on the Kenyan roads, but 
also confused this duck, normally 
found on forested highland rivers but 
here observed out in the middle of sa- 
vanna grassland — flooded grassland, 
mind you! 
Maccoa Duck: Nanyuki, 4/10/97, LC 
African Marsh Harrier (A# 98): [pres 
36D] Kanyarkwat, Kapenguria, 4/10/ 

97, MS, CM; Nyambene, Meru NP, 
20/6/98, WO, MB 

Grasshopper Buzzard (A# 120): [pres 
48C] Madende Bridge, 3 km W of Sio 
river, Mumias-Busia rd, 4/10/97, CJ, 
PN, OM; [pres 36D] 1, Kanyarkwat, 
Kapenguria, 9-13/10/97, BF — these 
are the first records of this species in 
W. Kenya. 

Martial Eagle (A# 123): [pres 87D] 
Torosei, in Rift Valley on the Tanza- 
nian border, 4/10/97, PR, SR, SM 

Grey Kestrel (A# 153): [pres 36D] 
Kanyarkwat, c. 30 km W of 
Kapenguria, 4/10/97, MS, CM 

Streaky-breasted Flufftail (A# 188): 
[pres 76A] 1 singing, wet grassland W 
of Thika, 14/2/98, MM 

African Crake (A# 191): [pres 51C] 
near dam, Lewa Downs, Isiolo, 15/6/ 

98, WO, MB; around Musiara air strip, 
Masai Mara, 22/6/98, WO, MB 

Allen's Gallinule (A# 199): [pres 63C] 
1 imm, Githumbwini dam, Thika, ?3/ 

5/98, MM — this is a good site to find 
this species; the immature bird was not 
young enough to suggest it bred lo- 
cally - it could have been a migrant 
from further south. 

Lesser Moorhen: Githumbwini dam, 
Thika, 5/10/97, WH; an immature bird 
caught at night in very flooded (El 
Nino!) old sand quarry pools, 
Arabuko-Sokoke Forest, Watamu, 2/ 
11/97, TB, CJ — the first record of 
this species for the forest. 

Red-knobbed Coot (A# 197): [pres 
37C] Keringet Dam, 5/10/97, CJ, PN, 
OM, MS; Githumbwini dam, Thika, 
5/10/97, WH; [post pres 76C] Game 
Ranching Ltd, Athi River, 4/10/97, 
WV, TM — 3 new atlas records is unu- 
sual for a well-known and often com- 
mon species, especially the two near 
the well- watched region of Nairobi. 

African Finfoot (A# 202): [pres 62C] 
Kigio farm, Ilkek, nr Gilgil, 5/10/97, 
CC — a nice record for this elusive 

Spotted Thick-knee (A# 275): [pres 
87D] Torosei, Meto Hills, Rift Valley 
on Tanzanian border, 4/10/97, PR, SR, 

Violet-tipped Courser (A# 281): [pres 
74A] single bird near Intrepids air- 
strip, Masai Mara, 5-6/3/98, DR — 
this courser is very infrequently re- 
ported as it is local, scarce and strictly 

Three-banded Plover (A# 235): [pres 
63C] Githumbwini Dam, Thika, 5/10/ 
97, WH, MM 

Blacksmith Plover (A# 217): [pres 
61B] Rongai, Rift Valley, 4/10/97, 

Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 


Black-headed Plover (A# 219): [pres 
36D] Kanyarkwat, c. 30km W of 
Kapenguria, 5/10/97, MS, CJ, PN, 

Gull-billed Tern (A# 301): [pres 51C] 
Lewa Downs, Isiolo, 4/10/97, KM — 
an unusual inland record for this spe- 
cies being away from the Rift Valley. 

Brown Noddy: just beyond reef off- 
shore from Blue Lagoon, Watamu, 2/ 
2/98, TB — another pelagic seabird 
that is not frequently reported. 

Eastern Bronze-naped Pigeon (A# 
326): [pres 101D] single M, Taita 
Ranch, S-E of Voi, 7/5/98, ES, FK 

Feral Pigeon (A# 232): [pres 62C] 
Fisherman's Camp, Naivasha, 26/4/ 
98, PRu 

African Mourning Dove (A# 329): 
[pres 76B] Tiva, nr Kitui, 4/10/97, RM 

Dusky Turtle Dove (A# 332): [pres 
63C] Githumbwini dam, Thika, 5/10/ 
97, WH, MM 

Grey Parrot: 1 1 birds together in trees, 
Rondo Retreat Centre gardens, 
Kakamega Forest, 30/1 1/97, SE, WE 
— having gone unreported in 
Kakamega for some years, this spe- 
cies seems to have made a small come- 
back over the past year. 

White-bellied Go-away-bird (A# 
354): [pres 36D] Kanyarkwat, c.30 km 
Kapenguria, 5/10/97, CJ, PN, OM, 

Klaas's Cuckoo (A# 373): [pres 49B] 
Kessup, 6 km E along rd from Iten, 
11/10/97, CJ 

Yellowbill (A# 379): [pres 48C] in 
riverine scrub, Madende Bridge, 3 km 
of W Sio river along Mumias-Busia 
rd, 4/10/97, CJ, PN, OM — this 

unique bird is quite scarce in western 
Kenya; single bird, Langata, Nbi, 15/ 
2/98, ALA 

Black Coucal (A# 378): [pres 63A] 
Karatina, 9/6/98 & [pres 74A] Musiara 
gate, Masai Mara 1 8/6/98, WO, MB — 
one of the least known of our coucals. 

Blue-headed Coucal: Aberdare NP, 10/ 
6/98, WO, MB — a local and shy bird 
in the central highlands that is not so 
frequently reported. 

Sabine's Spinetail: single bird ob- 
served flying low up and down track 
in forest, Kakamega, 29/11/97, SE, 
WE — this is the first record in Kenya 
for over ten years of this rare species 
of swift, which was thought to be lo- 
cally extinct in Kakamega. 

White-rumped Swift (A# 422): [pres 
2C] Lokichogio-Kakuma rd, 9 km to- 
wards Kakuma, 22/3/98, JM, MJ-D — 
a long way from any previous records, 
this bird was presumably a wanderer. 

White-headed Mousebird: nr Chyulu 
gate, S. Chyulu Hills, 4-5/10/97, SC 

Giant Kingfisher (A# 430): [pres 
114C] Funzi-Wasini Island area, 
Shimoni, 4-5/10/97, DF — an unusual 
species for the coast, this bird would 
have been a wanderer from inland, 
maybe Mt Kilimanjaro. 

Pied Kingfisher (A# 431): [pres 51C] 
Loldiaga Hills, Nanyuki, 28-30/5/98, 

Green Wood-hoopoe (A# 459): [pres 
87D] Torosei, on Tz border, 4/10/97, 

Violet Wood-hoopoe (A# 460): [post 
pres 52C] Rujerewo River, on doum 
palms, Nyambene, Mem NP, 11-13/ 
6/98, WO, MB 


Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 

Hemprich's Hornbill (A# 473): [pres 

36D] Cheptuya, Kanyarkwat, 4/10/97, 

African Grey Hornbill (A# 475): [pres 

63 A] Chogoria, Mt. Meru, 4-5/10/97, 

Silvery-cheeked Hornbill: nr Chyulu 

gate, S. Chyulu hills, 4-5/10/97, SC 

— a fascinating species, such a large 
bird and yet almost unknown to breed 
in Kenya — is it a non-breeding mi- 
grant from Tanzania in fact? Has any- 
one ever seen any 'migrating'? 

Grey-throated Barbet (A# 489): [pres 
37C] Sirikwa Farm, Kitale, 4/10/97, 
MS, CM; [pres 49B] in a small forest 
patch that is quickly being destroyed, 
Kessup, 6 km east along rd from Iten, 
1 1/10/97, CJ — the Kessup record is 
right at the eastern border of this spe- 
cies' range in Kenya. 

White-eared Barbet: nr Chyulu gate, 
S. Chyulu hills, 4-5/10/97, SC — not 
a commonly reported species. 

Brown-breasted Barbet: pair seen for- 
aging, Yale, Taita Hills, 4/2/98, LL — 
a mostly coastal species, it extends in- 
land in small numbers as far as Taita. 

Red-and-yellow Barbet (A# 499): 
[pres 36D] Cheptuya, Kanyarkwat, 
Kapenguria, 4/10/97, MS, CM 

D'Arnaud's Barbet (A# 497): [pres 
36D] Cheptuya, Kanyarkwat, 
Kapenguria, 4/10/97, MS, CM 

Lesser Honey guide (A# 501): [pres 
62D] Kijabe, 4/10/97, CD; [pres49B] 
single bird, Kessup, 6 km E along rd 
from Iten, 1 1/10/97, CJ 

Eastern Honey bird : Kijabe, 4/1 0797, CD 

— only recently recorded from this QSD 
(62D), this is our second report. 

Wahlberg's Honeybird (A#509): pres 
63C] 1 in open bushland with scattered 
trees near Thika, 23/1/98, MM 

Chestnut-backed Sparrow-Lark: 
around Meru Mulika Lodge, 
Nyambene, Meru NP, 1 3/6/98, WO, 

Ethiopian Swallow (A# 554): [pres 2C] 
Lokichogio-Kakuma rd, 9 km towards 
Kakuma, 22/3/98, JM, MJ-D — this 
observation is some distance west of 
the species' previously recorded dis- 
tribution in Kenya. 

Red-rumped Swallow (A# 556): [pres 
2C] Lokichogio-Kakuma rd, 9 km to- 
wards Kakuma, 22/3/98, JM, MJ-D — 
a very long way from any other Ken- 
yan localities for this species, this is 
most likely to have been a bird wan- 
dering from a northern population. 

Rock Martin (A# 560): [pres 49B] sev- 
eral around cliff-faces, Kessup, 6 km 
E along rd from Iten, 1 1/10/97, CJ 

Mountain Wagtail (A# 833): [pres 
49B] on fast-running stream, Kessup, 
6 km E along rd from Iten, 1 1/10/97, 

Cape Wagtail (A# 834): [pres 62B] 
Ndaragua forest, along Pesi river, N 
of Aberdare Mts, 4-5/10/97, NG, CG 

Bush Pipit: Rift Valley W of Ngong 
Hills, 4/10/97, WH, MM 

Yellow-whiskered Greenbul (A# 618): 
[pres 62C] Kigio farm, Ilkek, near 
Gilgil, 5/10/97, CC 

Mountain Greenbul (A# 615): [pres 
62C] Kigio farm, Ilkek, near Gilgil, 
5/10/97, CC 

Stripe-cheeked Greenbul: nr Chyulu 
gate, S. Chyulu hills, 4-5/10/97, SC 
— a very restricted species in Kenya, 

Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 


mainly found on the Taitas and on 

Zanzibar Sombre Greenbul: 
Kamburu, near Mwea NP and Makima 
town, 5/ 1 0/97, TL — this record is at 
the E border of this species' range in 

Rufous Chatterer (A# 595): [pres 36D] 
Cheptuya, Kanyarkwat, Kapenguria, 
4/10/97, MS, CM 

Grey-winged Robin: Sirikwa Farm, 
Kapenguria, 4/10/97, MS, CM 

Brown-backed Scrub Robin (A# 657): 
[pres 37C] Lokitela farm, Kitale, 4/10/ 
97, JMw, NN — an uncommon spe- 
cies anyway, there are relatively few 
records from around Kitale. 

Lesser Swamp Warbler (A# 696): 
[pres 37C] Keringet Dam, Makutano, 
Kapenguria, 5/10/97, CJ, PN, OM 

Brown Woodland Warbler: nr Chyulu 
gate, S. Chyulu hills, 4-5/10/97, SC 

Little Rush Warbler (A# 682): [pres 
51C] Lewa Downs, Isiolo, 4/10/97, 

Broad-tailed Warbler (A# 686): [post 
pres 63C] 1 flushed from wet grass- 
land W of Thika, 8/3/98, MM 

Long-tailed Cisticola (A# 732): [pres 
74C] Siana Springs, Masai Mara NR, 
7/1 1/97, GO — a local and uncommon 
species recorded here at the eastern 
edge of its range. 

Foxy Cisticola: several birds including 
a juv, Kanyarkwat, Kongelai, 
Makutano, end of 1/98, CJ, JS, I&HM 

Black-headed Apalis(A# 757): [pres 
51C] NE Nanyuki, 5/10/97, LS, JH 

Black-collared Apalis (A# 758): [pres 
50C] around waterfalls, Nyahururu, 4/ 
10/97, NG, CG; [pres 49B] Kessup, 6 

km E along rd from Iten, 1 1/10/97, CJ 

Grey-capped Warbler (A# 763): [pres 
49B] Kessup, 6 km E along rd from 
Iten, 11/10/97, CJ 

Red-faced Crombec (A# 771): [pres 
76B] Yatta area, Tiva, Kitui, 4/10/ 
97, RM 

Green Crombec: Madende Bridge, 3 
km W of Sio river along Mumias- 
Busia rd, 4/10/97, CJ, PN, OM — this 
delightful little bird is restricted in 
Kenya to just this area around Busia. 

White-bellied Tit (A# 583): [pres 48C] 
Madende Bridge, 3km W of Sio river, 
Mumias-Busia rd, 4/10/97, CJ, PN, 

Spotted Creeper: Sirikwa Farm, 
Kapenguria, 4/10/97, MS, CM — this 
species has really only been known 
regularly from the tiny patch of forest 
(literally a few trees) near Sirikwa 
Farm, but that patch is now seriously 
under threat of destruction for crops 
— in fact since this record the bird has 
been seen very infrequently. 

Black-and-white Flycatcher: adult M 
observed in canopy of forest trees, 
Shimoni, 4/10/97, SB, MH; this spe- 
cies was thought to no longer on the 
coast, this record being the first for c. 
40 years. 

Taita Fiscal: Rift Valley W of Ngong 
Hills, 4/10/97, WH, MM — a very 
northern record for the southern popu- 
lation of this species. 

Brubru (A# 835): [pres 36D] 
Kanyarkwat, c. 3& km W of 
Kapenguria, 5/10/97, CJ, PN, OM 

Red-naped Bush Shrike: 1 observed 
flying across main rd and perching in 
bush beside it, 15 km E of Voi, 11/2/ 


Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 

98, LL — a typical area for this infre- 
quently reported species. 

Black-headed Gonolek: Lake Baringo, 
4-5/10/97, SL — this bird was prob- 
ably a 'wanderer' from further west. 

Cape Rook (A# 580): [pres 2C] single 
bird, 40 km E of Lokichogio, 20/6/98, 
MM — this species is normally con- 
fined to nearer L. Turkana and not 
found so far west. 

Waller's Starling (A# 887): Turi, Molo, 
4/1/97, IL; [pres62C] Kieni forest, south 
of Aberdare Mts, 5/10/97, DT— one of 
our lesser-known forest starlings. 

Slender-billed Starling (A# 886): [pres 
61 B] Turi, Molo, 4/1/97, IL; [pres. 
49B], flock of 25-30 birds foraging 
on rocks covered with fast-flowing 
water at top of a waterfall, Kessup, 6 
km east of main rd from Iten, 1 1/10/ 
97, CJ 

Lesser Blue-eared Starling (A# 880): 
[pres 36D] Kanyarkwat, c. 30 km W 
of Kapenguria, 5/10/97, MS, CJ, PN, 
OM — this starling is the commonest 
starling in the area. 

Riippell's Long-tailed Starling (A# 
881): [pres 5 1 C] Lewa Downs, Isiolo, 
4/10/97, KM — this record is slightly 
out of the normal range and probably 
represents a wanderer from further 
west; [pres 88D] nr Chyulu gate, S. 
Chyulu hills, 4-5/10/97, SC 

Shelley's Starling: many at Gala Camp, 
nr Taita, for c.l month, from 1/7/98, 

Superb Starling (A# 890): [pres 60 A) 
ICIPE field station, Mbita Point, 5/10/ 
97, GA: [pres 36D] Kanyarkwat, c. 30 
km W of Kapenguria, 5/ 1 0/97, CJ, PN, 

Golden-breasted Starling (A# 893): 

[pres 88D] nr Chyulu gate, S. Chyulu 
hills, 4-5/10/97, SC 

Fischer's Starling ( A# 891): [pres 76B 1 
Yatta area, Tiva, Kitui, 4/10/97, RM 

Magpie Starling: behind Lokichogio 
airport, 22/3/98, JM, J&SH 

Wattled Starling (A# 899): [pres 63C] 
Githumbwini dam, Thika, 5/10/97, 

Olive Sunbird (A# 929): [pres 49B] 
Kessup, 6 km E along main rd from 
Iten, 1 1/1 0/97, C J 

Marico Sunbird (A# 916): [pres 36D] 
Kanyarkwat, c. 30 km W of 
Kapenguria, 5/10/97, CJ, PN, OM, 

Malachite Sunbird: nr Chyulu gate, S. 
Chyulu hills, 4-5/10/97, SC — this 
record represents the small, isolated 
population of this species on the 
Chyulu Hills. 

House Sparrow (A# 992): [pres 101 A] 
surrounding farmland nr Wundanyi, 
Taita Hills, 4-5/10/97, DG, PM; [pres 
62C] 01 Kalou, nr Gilgil, 1/2/98, FN 
— this introduced species is continu- 
ing to spread... 

Rufous Sparrow (A# 991): [pres 76B] 
Yatta area, Tiva, Kitui, 4/10/97, RM 

Yellow-spotted Petronia (A# 995): 
[pres 76B] Yatta area, Tiva, Kitui, 4/ 
10/97, RM 

White-browed Sparrow Weaver (A# 
997): [pres 36D] Kanyarkwat, c. 30 
km W of Kapenguria, 4/10/97, MS, 

Speckle-fronted Weaver (A# 996): 
[pres 36D] Kanyarkwat, c. 30 km W 
of Kapenguria, 4/10/97, MS, CM 

Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 


Black-necked Weaver (A# 963): [pres 
60A] Rusinga Island, Mbita, 4/10/97, 
GA; [pres 75B] Rift Valley W of 
Ngong Hills, 4/10/97, WH, MM 

Heuglin's Masked Weaver (A# 955): 
[pres 36D] c. 50 nests counted in trees 
around GSU camp, Kanyarkwat, c. 30 
km W of Kapenguria, 5/10/97, MS, 
CJ, PN, OM — this rare weaver 
seemed to appreciate the safety of 
nesting in the middle of an army camp! 

Green-winged Pytilia (A# 1008): [pres 
75B] Rift Valley W of Ngong Hills, 4/ 
10/97, WH, MM — this record is 
slightly out of the species' normal 
range, being further north up the Rift 
than is usual. 

Orange- winged Pytilia (A# 1009): M 
and F seen together in Shimba Hills 
National Park, 4/8/97, SE, WE; [pres 
36D] Kanyarkwat, c.30 km W of 
Kapenguria, 5/10/97, SM, CJ, PN, 
OM; 5-6 birds, same site end 1/98, CJ, 
JS, I&HM — this is a restricted spe- 
cies and difficult to find, and of late 
has been mainly reported from the 
Kanyarkwat site. The coastal observa- 
tion is valuable - there have been few 
coastal records in recent years, the last 
being in December 1990. 

Red-billed Firefinch (A# 1018): [pres 
76D] Yatta area, Tiva, Kitui, 4/10/97^ 

African Firefinch (A# 1022): [pre 
60A] Mbita point field station, ICIPE 
5/10/97, GA 

Crimson-rumped Waxbill (A# 1031): 

[pres 62B] Ndaragua forest, along Pesi 
river, N of Aberdare Mts., 4-5/10/97, 

Blue-capped Cordon-bleu (A# 1025): 
[pres 75B] Rift Valley W of Ngong 
Hills, 4/10/97, WH, MM — a very 
northern record for the southern K/Tz 

Grey-headed Silverbill (A# 1045): 
[pres 2C] behind Lokichogio airport, 
22/3/98, JM, J&SH — this species is 
much more uncommon in the arid 
north than further south, making this 
a very interesting record. 

Black-and-white Mannikin (A# 
1042): [pres 49B] Kessup, 6 km E 
along main rd from Iten, 1 1/10/97, CJ 

Steel-blue Whydah (A# 1033): [pres 
2C] behind Lokichogio airport, 22/3/ 
98, JM, J&SH — another record a 
long way from any previous ones, but 
birds have been recorded from north- 
east Uganda suggesting this refers to 
birds of that population. 

African Citril (A# 1054): [pres 49B] 
Kessup, 6 km E along main rd from 
Iten, 1 1/10/97, CJ 

White-headed Mousebird 


Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 


Osprey (A# 141): [pres 60A] ICIPE, 
Mbita Point, 5/10/97, GA; single bird, 
Nbi NP, 8,9 & 13/6/98 — this would 
be one of the few over-summering non- 
breeding birds that are known to oc- 
cur each year, though they are not of- 
ten recorded around Nbi. 

Common Buzzard: Madende Bridge, 3 
km W Sio river along Mumias-Busia 
rd, 4/10/97, CJ, PN,OM 

Eurasian Honey Buzzard (A# 137): 
[pres 101 B] ad soaring, Chawia, Taita 
Hills, 3/2/98, LL; 2 birds low over- 
head, Madende Bridge, 3 km W of Sio 
river, Mumias-Busia rd, 4/10/97, CJ, 

Montagu's Harrier: ad male, Naro 
Moru, 9/ 1 0/97, BF — a relatively early 
record for this species 

Eurasian Hobby (A# 152): [pres 36D] 
Kanyarkwat, Kapenguria, 4/10/97, 
MS, CM; over 25 birds flying south, 
6/1 1/97, Loldia Farm, Naivasha, JW 

Lesser Kestrel (A# 160): [pres 63A] 
single male, Naro Moru, 9/10/97, BF; 
[pres 2C] Lokichogio-Kakuma rd, 9 
km towards Kakuma, 22/3/98, JM, MJ- 

Corncrake (A# 192): [pres 76C] Game 
Ranching Ltd., Athi River, 28/1/98, ST 
— an unusual date for this species 
which is considered a passage migrant: 
could it have been wintering here? 

Caspian Plover (A# 233): [pres 54C] 3 
birds nr Dadaab refugee camp, NE of 
Garissa, 14/1/98, MM — very little 
birding has been done in this area, 
these birds are likely to have been 
northward-bound migrants heading for 
their breeding grounds. 


Common Snipe (A# 249): [pres 63C] 
Githumbwini dam, Thika, 5/10/97, 

Great Snipe (A# 251): [pres 48A] 10 
km N of Busia, 4/10/97, CJ, PN, OM; 
[pres 63C] Githumbwini coffee estate, 
Thika, 5/1 0/97 WH, MM — two good 
records for this chunky, uncommon 

Common Greenshank (A# 261): [pres 
61B] Rongai, Rift valley, 4/10/97, 

Green Sandpiper (A# 262): [pres 87D] 
Torosei, on Tz border, 4/1 0/97, PR, SR, 
SM — this area holds several seasonal 
swamps that have rarely been visited 
by birders but provide some very nice 

Common Sandpiper (A# 265): [pres 
2C] Lokichogio-Kakuma rd, 9 km to- 
wards Kakuma, 22/3/98, JM, MJ-D 

Terek Sandpiper (A# 264): [pres 88C] 
a single bird in Amboseli NP, 7/6/98, 
MM — whilst common on the coast, 
this species is not often recorded in- 
land: this bird was lost... 

Red-necked Phalarope: 1, Lake 
Nakuru NP, 1 7/ 1 /98, MM — this beau- 
tiful wader is normally pelagic but 
when recorded inland tends to be re- 
ported from the Rift Valley, like this 

Eurasian Swift: big flocks, Kacheliba, 
Suam River, Kongelai, 11-12/10/97, 

Sand Martin: single bird at Kacheliba, 
Suam River, Kongelai, 11-12/10/97, 

Common House Martin: many at 
Lokitela farm, Kitale, 10/10/97, BF; 

Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 


few with Barn Swallows, Kessup, 6 km 
E along rd from Iten, 1 1/ 10/97, CJ 

Tree Pipit: Lokitela Farm, Kitale, 10/ 
10/97, BF 

White Wagtail (A# 832): [pres 61C] 
winter ad. male in garden, 10/12/97, 
and 2 in factory compound, 4, 14 & 
31/1/98, Arroket Tea Estate, Sotik, IF 

Whinchat: 1 bird, Lokitela farm, Mt. 
Elgon, 10/10/97, BF 

Pied Wheatear: single bird at 
Kacheliba, Suam River, 12/10/97, BF 
— the first record of this species for 
the season. 

Spotted Flycatcher: many seen at 
Kanyarkwat, c.30 km W of 
Kapenguria, 12/10/97, BF 

Garden Warbler: Madende Bridge, 3 
km W Sio river along Mumias-Busia 
rd, 4/10/97, CJ, PN, OM; Lokitela 

farm, 10/10/97, BF 

Chiffchaff (A#714): [pres 101B] 1 sing- 
ing, Ngangao, Taita Hills, 8/2/98, Luc 
Lens — a more unusual record in that 
it is away from the central highlands 
where this uncommon species is nor- 
mally recorded. 

Willow Warblers: not recorded on 5/ 
10/97 but many observed in the morn- 
ing of 6/10 indicating a significant ar- 
rival overnight, Sirikwa Farm, 
Kapenguria, CJ 

Red-backed Shrike: Lokichogio- 
Kakuma rd, 9 km towards Kakuma, 22/ 
3/98, JM, MJ-D — these birds will 
have been actively migrating heading 
for their breeding grounds 

Eurasian Golden Oriole: 4 at 
Kacheliba, Suam River, Kongelai, 12/ 
10/97, BF 

Breeding records 

Many thanks go to all those who have sent in Nest Record Cards over the past year 
or so. The response has continued to be good. Over the period covered by this 
report, up to June 31 1998, a total of 230 records were submitted and accepted by 
50 contributors. Of these, 188 were confirmed and 42 probable breeding records 
and in all cover 1 26 species. Those people who sent in breeding records are listed 
below — all those who sent in more than 10 deserve special congratulations, par- 
ticularly Kuria Ndung'u who was clearly busy observing the breeding birds of 
Windsor Golf Club! 

A new stock of Nest Record Cards (NRCs) has been printed with a more user- 
friendly, covering a number of options that the last one did not make allowance for. 
We hope that this will encourage observers in their submission of breeding records. 
Blank cards are available upon request. Full instructions on completing the card 
are provided elsewhere in this issue. A small plea — if juveniles are observed being 
fed by an adult, please note on the second side of the card, the number of juvenile 
birds involved under the column 'Young seen, Out nest'. Thank you! 


Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 

NRC contributors for the period 
October 1997-June 1998 

Kuria Ndung'u -26 

Andrew Mwangi Waweru - 15 

Fleur Ng'weno- 14 

Wayne Vos - 1 2 

Peter Karanja - 1 1 

Charles K. Kahihia - 9 

James Wainaina - 9 

Cecilia Gichuki & Charles Waihenya - 8 

Shailesh Patel - 8 

Willis Oketch - 8 

Dome Brass - 6 

Michael Maina - 6 

Francis Njuguna Kiiru - 5 

Jeffory Coburn - 5 

Samuel N. Kimani - 5 

Kevin Mulai - 4 

Zachary Methu Mbuthia - 4 

Three and less : Peter Faull, Solomon 
Mwangi, Dave Richards, Martin 
Kahindi, Linda and Neil Davidson, Pe- 
ter Ruoro, Samuel Ndegwa Kabaiku, 
Titus Imboma, Juma Mohammed, Mercy 
Njeri, Mary Mwihaki, Bernard Chege, 
Bernard Musyoka, Alfred Simiyu, 
Narinder Heyer, North Lake Bird Track- 
ers, Duncan Si veil, Jean Githaiga, 
Patrick Gichuki, Dominic Kimani. 

Records of interest 

Common Ostrich: 17 fledged young 
seen out of nest with 2 adult males and 
1 adult female; young about 1/3 size 
of adults, Tsavo West NP, 1 1/1 2/97, DB 

Great Cormorant (A# 21): [conf 75B] 
several feathered young capable of 
leaving nest when last seen, Windsor 

Golf and Country Club, Nairobi, 6/1/ 

Cattle Egrets (A# 30): [conf 5 1C] eggs 
being incubated, naked and feathered 
young in and out of nest, actual nests 
in middle of dam surrounded by wa- 
ter, breeding together with Black- 
headed Herons and Cattle Egrets in 
lower branches, Lewa Downs, Timau, 
Isiolo, 15/2/98, KM 

Grey Heron: nests and juveniles of this 
and other species destroyed when nest- 
ing tree was felled, Murungaru town, 
N. Kinangop, 15/3/98, AMW 

Goliath Heron: large juvs in several 
nests, Lake Baringo, 2/3, DR. 

Black-headed Heron (A# 43): [prob 
88A] 4 nests with 2 birds nesting, 
Emali, 22/10/97, WV; 75 nests counted 
with 58 ads and 38 young of various 
ages, Hunter's Lodge, Kiboko, 27/2/ 
98, JMo 

Yellow-billed Duck: 7 eggs in nest 1/1/ 
98, nest empty 2/1 — eggs taken by 
boys, L. Ol'Bolossat, Nyahururu, CW 

Hadada Ibis: 3 young successfully 
raised, Murungaru, N Kinangop, 17/2 
- 31/3/98, MMw 

Augur Buzzard (A# 119): [post prob 
49 A] 2 young seen flying with parents, 
1 young normal morph, other melan- 
istic; parents also showing the two col- 
our morphs, Chepkoilol Campus, Moi 
University, Eldoret, 11/2/97, BMC 

African Fish Eagle: bird sitting on nest 
at 15:30 h, mate nearby, Amboseli NP, 
15/10/97, WV 

African Crowned Eagle: feathered 
young in nest, Hardy Shopping Cen- 
tre, Karen, Nairobi, 10/11/97, PK — 

Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 


could this be the same pair that nested 
near the Giraffe Centre the previous 
year, or a different one? 

Common Kestrel: 3 fledged young beg- 
ging for food out of nest, Ngong Town, 
21/6/98, SP 

Scaly Francolin (A# 161): [conf 38D] 
ad incubating single egg, 2 miles south 
of Poror and North Leroghi Range, 
Maralal District, 4/1/98 PF 

Common Button Quail (A# 181): [conf 
51C] adult seen with 3 young, Lewa 
Downs, Isiolo, 1 6/6/98, WO — there are 
relatively few breeding records for this 
very skulking and secretive species. 

Red-knobbed Coot: 5 nests seen, 
Naivasha, 22/4/98, CK; 4 fledged young 
being constantly fed by ad, Loldaiga, 
Nanyuki, 28-30/5/98, DB; many juvs, 
Makumi's dam, Kinangop, 15/3/98, 
AMW — this species was once ex- 
tremely numerous on L Naivasha but 
numbers have plummeted over the last 
5 years. It is therefore good to get some 
breeding records for it. 

Grey Crowned Crane (A# 184): 2 juvs 
with ad and second nest of 3 eggs be- 
ing incubated, Makumi's dam, N 
Kinangop, 15/3/98, AMW; [conf 
100D] one pair with chick, nr Tsavo 
West NP boat landing, Lake Jipe, 25/ 
2/98, FN; 3 recently fledged young, 
Nairobi NP, NH; 2 young successfully 
fledged, L. Ol'Bolossat, Nyahururu, 
15/1/98 - 5/98, CW, CG — good to 
hear of several successful breeding at- 
tempts for this species which has suf- 
fered from loss of breeding habitat. 

Two-banded Courser: 1 juv being fed 
by ad, Observation Hill, Amboseli NP, 
18/11/97, FN 

Somali Courser (A# 277): [conf 13D] 
2 tiny downy chicks sheltering under 
ad, E of Lodwar-Kalokol rd, off rd to 
Eliye Springs, Turkana, 12/1 1/97, FN 

Black-headed Plover: ads courting, 
Nyambene, Meru NP, 12/6/98, WO 

African Snipe (A# 250): [conf 62A] 4 
eggs in nest, all young successfully 
hatched and left nest on 19-20/2/98, 
L. Ol'Bolossat, Nyahururu, CW, CG 

Red-fronted Parrot (A# 342): [conf 
38D] one very small chick, 2 miles 
south of Poror and North Leroghi 
Range, Maralal District, 31/12/97, PF 
— the first breeding record of this spe- 
cies from the more isolated population 
in the forests around Maralal. 

Hartlaub's Turaco: ad carrying nesting 
material, Hardy Shopping Centre, 
Langata, Nbi, 5/5/98, PK 

Black Cuckoo: young being fed by 
Tropical Boubou, Loldia Farm, 
Naivasha, 20/9/97, JW — a species 
infrequently reported as breeding: 
boubous are its normal host group. 

Klaas's Cuckoo: chick being fed by pair 
of Variable Sunbirds, 1 3/8/97 — same 
observed on 18/8, then an ad. male 
Klaas's visited the chick briefly, but 
took no notice, Loldia Farm, Naivasha, 
JW — Bronze Sunbirds are the more 
commonly reported host for this spe- 

Diederik Cuckoo (A# 374): immature 
being fed by Tawny-flanked Prinia, 
North Lake Nurseries, Naivasha, 24/ 
5/98, NLT; [conf 62B] juv fed by Grey- 
capped Warbler, Aberdare NP, 10/6/98, 
WO — an interesting variety of host 
species recorded here. 


Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 

African Scops Owl (A# 382): [conf 
51C] single juv seen being fed by ad 
out of nest, Lewa Downs, Timau, 
Isiolo, 7/5/98, KM 

Spotted Eagle Owl: 2 feathered young 
in nest, 1 killed by boys, other escaped, 
fate unknown, North Lake Nurseries 
Farm, Naivasha, 14-17/12/97, PRu 

Verreaux's Eagle Owl: dependent 
young with adult out of nest, 
Nyambene, Meru NP, 12/6/98, WO 

Malachite Kingfisher: juv being fed, 
Murungaru, N. Kinangop, 16/3/98, 

Abyssinian Scimitarbill ( A# 463): 
[conf 62C] ad with 2 juvs, chasing fe- 
male Black Cuckoo-shrike, Loldia 
Farm, Naivasha, 26/9/97, JW 

African Grey Hornbill: both ads feed- 
ing young with insects and figs, Fig 
Tree Camp, L Bogoria, 31/5/98, SP; 
fledged young being fed by ad, Kes- 
trel Cliff, Ngong Town, 21/6/98, PLO 

Spot-flanked Barbet (A# 484): [conf 
88B] 2 fledged young being fed by ad, 
Umani Springs Camp, Kibwezi Forest, 
Kibwezi, 5/10/97, KN 

Scaly-throated Honeyguide (A# 503): 
[conf 62C] male Nubian Woodpecker 
feeding single young, observed again 
on 3/1 1/97, Loldia Farm, Naivasha, 1/ 
11/97, JW 

Nubian Woodpecker: 2 feathered 
young in nest, Samburu Serena Lodge, 
Samburu GR, Isiolo, 30/6/97, SMw 

Wire-tailed Swallow (A# 552): [prob 
89C] pair flying in and out of nest, 
contents of nest not seen, KWS guest 
house veranda, Mtito Andei, Tsavo 
West NP, 23-27/2/98, FN 

Lesser Striped Swallow (A# 559): [post 

conf 63C] ad flying in and out of nest 
carrying food, Bendor Coffee Estate, 
Thika, 5/5/97, JG 

Rock Martin: ad carrying food to 2 
feathered young in nest 5 -12/10/97, 
fledged young being fed by ad out of 
nest 18/10, Murungaru, N Kinangop, 

Black Saw-wing (A# 564): [conf 62C] 
2 half-feathered young in nest, N 
Kinangop, 18/5/98, CK 

Grassland Pipit (A# 814): [post conf 
62A] 2 eggs in nest, 1/2/98, L. Ol 
Bolossat, Nyahururu, 13/2/98, CW, 

Slender-billed Greenbul: 1 fledged 
young being fed by ad out of nest, 
Ngong Racecourse, Nbi, 24/12/97, KN 

Spotted Morning Thrush (A# 661): 
[conf 76C] Von der Decken's Hornbill 
tried to eat chicks, but could not get to 
nest due to overhanging thorns, Game 
Ranching Ltd, Athi River, 1/4/98, WV 

Anteater Chat: 2-3 ads taking turns to 
feed young in nest with worms as 
other(s) keep watch, Murungaru, N. 
Kinangop, 7/6/98, AMW 

African Dusky Flycatcher: 2 feathered 
young seen being fed by ad out of nest, 
Ngangao Forest, Taita Hills, 1 1/2/97, 

Grey Flycatcher: feathered young in 
nest, Game Ranching Ltd., Athi River, 
1/4/98, WV 

Buff-bellied Warbler (A# 749): [conf 
62C] 2 young being fed by both ads in 
Acacia xanthophloea tree, KWS Train- 
ing Institute Annex, Naivasha, 30/5/98, 

Red-throated Tit (A#584): [conf 76C] 
some broken eggs with feathered 

Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 


young in an old Lesser Striped Swal- 
low's nest, ad also observed carrying 
food, Game Ranching Ltd., Athi River, 
1 2/3/98, WV — good to learn more 
about the biology of one of our re- 
gional endemics. 

Black-throated Wattle-eye: I feathered 
young being fed by ad out of nest, 
Windsor Golf & Country Club, Nbi, 
6/1 2/98, KN — a species that is not so 
frequently seen around Nbi. 

Long-tailed Fiscal (A#862): [conf 52C] 
ad feeding fledged young, Nyambene, 
MeruNP, 12/6/98, WO 

Black-backed Puffback (A# 836): 
[conf 63C] 1 fledged young being fed 
out of nest, Kimondo, Mukurweini, 
Nyeri, 21/6/98, PG 

Black Cuckoo-shrike (A# 604): [prob 
74A] F sitting on nest with M in at- 
tendance, Talek River, Masai Mara, 5/ 
3/98, DR 

White-naped Raven (A# 578): [conf 
74 A] ad carrying food to nest, Mara 
Simba Lodge, Masai Mara, 10-12/3/ 
97, MK 

Hildebrandt's Starling ( A# 889): nest 
in use — hole in Acacia xanthophloea 
tree by stream, Game Ranching Ltd, 
Athi River, 3/11/97; [prob 88C] nest 
in use assumed incubating eggs, 
Amboseli National Park, 15/3/97, WV 

Superb Starling: 4 feathered young in 
nest, being fed by 3 adults, 21/11/97, 
young capable of leaving nest when 
last seen 24/11, Tarabete, Kasarani, 
Naivasha, ZM 

Bronze Sunbird (A# 925): [conf 38D] 
nest with young, 2 miles south of Poror 
and North Lerogi Range, Maralal Dis- 
trict, 28/12/98, PF — this is the first 

updated atlas record of this species 
since the Atlas fieldwork ended in 

House Sparrow (A# 992): [conf 62C] 
ads carrying food to nest, 12/10/97, 2 
young being fed out of nest 16/10, 
Tarabete, Kasarani, Naivasha, ZM 

Baglafecht Weaver (A# 960): [conf. 
74A] ad carrying food to young in nest, 
young attacked by bushbaby, Mara 
Simba Lodge, Masai Mara, Narok, 1 7- 
19/3/97, MK 

Heuglin's Masked Weaver (A# 955): 
[prob 36D] c.50 nests with birds build- 
ing and others displaying, GSU camp, 
Kanyarkwat, Makutano, 28/1/98, CJ 

Speke's Weaver: 2 blue eggs in nest 
(16-20/2), 2 naked young (1/3), 2 
feathered young in nest (14/3), & 2 
young being fed out of nest 26/3/98, 
Murungaru centre, N Kinangop, MMw 

Red-headed Weaver: ads seen building 
nests for 2 weeks 4/97, both seen car- 
rying food 6 & 5/97, building new nest 
2/7/97, nest at one time used by Cut- 
throat Finch, Samburu National Re- 
serve, Isiolo, SMw 

Yellow Bishop: 1 naked young and 1 egg 
(addled?), L Naivasha Country Club, 
Naivasha, 22/3/98, SK 

Long-tailed Widowbird: naked juve- 
nile in nest, Makumi's dam, N 
Kinangop, 15/3/98; 2 darkish grey 
eggs with white patches being incu- 
bated 4 & 9/3/98, 2 naked young in 
nest, Murungaru, N Kinangop, 4-9/3/ 

Red-billed Firefinch: feeding 4 chicks, 
1 chick bigger than the adults being 
fed by the male Firefinch, has base of 
bill white mark like others, but obvi- 


Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 

ously a parasite, observed also on 6/ 
ll, Loldia Farm, Naivasha, 3/ 1 0/97, 

Village Indigobird: I young one beg- 
ging food from ad Red-billed 
Firefinch, South B, Nbi, 20/1 1/97, SP 

Yellow-rumped Seedeater (A# 1058): 
[conf 76C] 1 feathered chick fell out 
of nest — and placed back, Game 
Ranching Ltd, Athi River, 8/4/98, WV 

Abbreviations: GR, Game Reserve; juv 
— juvenile; imm - immature; L. - Lake; 
NMK - National Museums of Kenya; 
Nbi - Nairobi; NP - National Park; NR - 
National Reserve; Ngulia SL - Ngulia 
Safari Lodge 


ALA, Tony Archer; GA, George 
Amutete^; SB, Shelagh Ballard; TB, 
Tansy Bliss; DB, Dorrie Brass; MB, 
Mike Bridgeford; LC, L. Campbell; SC, 
S. Carter; BMC, Bernard Chege; JC, 
John Clark; CC, Chris Clause; JC, 
Jeffory Coburn; ND, Neil Davidson et 
al.; CD, Colin Densham; WE, Wayne 
Easley; SE, Steve Easley; DF, David 
Fair, PF, Peter Faull; BF, Brian Finch; 
IF, Ian Francombe; CG, Cecilia Gichuki; 
NG, Nathan Gichuki; PG, Patrick 
Gichuki; DG, David Gitau; JG, Jean 
Githaiga; WH, Bill Harvey; J&SH, John 
& Sally Hayes; MH, Maia Hemphill; 
NH, Narinder Heyer; JH, Jennifer 

Home; TI, Titus Imboma; G&D1, 
Geoffrey & Dorothy Irvine; CJ, Colin 
Jackson; MJ-D, Marcel Jacot- 
Descombes; CK, Charles Kahihia; MK, 
Martin Kahindi; PK, Peter Karanja; 
FNK, Francis Njuguna Kiiru; SK, 
Samuel N. Kimani; FK, Fidel Kyalo; TL, 
Thomas Lehmberg et al.; LL, Luc Lens; 
SL, Simon Leparsalaach; IL, Imre 
Loefler; BM, Bernard Mburu; TM, 
Trelss McGregor; FM, Francis Maina; 
MM, Mark Mallalieu; I&HM, Ian & 
Hazel Marshall; CM, Charles Mbito; 
ZM, Zachary Methu; JM, John Miskell; 
JMo, Juma Mohammed; KM, Kevin 
Mulai; RM, Ronald Mulwa; SM, 
Sikampe Musori; SMw, Solomon 
Mwangi; PM, Patrick Mwatia; OM, 
Ogeto Mwebi; MMw, Mary Mwihaki; 
JMw, Japheth Mwok; NN, Nicodemus 
Nalianya; KN, Kuria Ndung'u; FN, 
Fleur Ng' weno; PN, Peter Njoroge; BO, 
Bell Okelo; WO, Willis Oketch; GO, 
George Omondi; J&HO, J&H Onslow; 
PLO, EANHS Pot-luck outing; SP, 
Shailesh Patel; DR, Dave Richards; PR, 
Peter Russell; SR, Skyler Russell; PRu, 
Peter Ruoro; ES, Edwin Selempo; LS, 
Lester Short; MS, Maurice Sinyereri; JS, 
John Stott; SS, Sue Sylvester; ST, Simon 
Thomsett; NLT, North Lake Trackers; 
DT, Don Turner; WV, Wayne Vos; CW, 
Charles Waihenya; JW, James Wainaina; 
AMW, Andrew Mwangi Waweru. 

Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 


Corrections to records in Kenya Birds 6 

In Kenya Birds 6 ( 1 &2) a number of records were submitted for Githumbwini 
Dam on an estate near Thika. This lies very close to the corners of four 
QSD squares. Unfortunately, the wrong square number was given for the 
site in the last volume. It should in fact be QSD 63C. The corrected records 
are therefore as follows: 

Purple Swamphen (A# 198): [post pres 63C] Githumbwini Dam, Thika: 2 
on 2/1/97 and up to 4 in May, MM; 2 at same site 22/6/97, CJ, JL, KD 

Common Moorhen: ad with 3 chicks, Githumbwini Dam, Thika, 15/6/96, 
PLO — this was not in fact a new breeding record for this square. 

Lesser Moorhen (A# 200): [pres 63C] up to 20 present, Githumbwini Dam, 
Thika, 17/5/96; imm birds also seen at same site 7/6/96, MM, and 22/6, 
CJ, JL, KD; [conf 63C] ad with one chick, Githumbwini Dam, Thika, 
15/6, PLO 

Whiskered Tern (A# 312): [conf 63C] 2 recently fledged juvs at 
Githumbwini Dam, Thika, 28/6/96, OD 

Key to initials: KD, Kristin Davis; OD, Ornithology Department staff; CJ, 
Colin Jackson; JL, Jeremy Lindsell; MM, Mark Mallalieu; PLO, EANHS 
Pot Luck Outing. 


Red-knobbed Coot 

50 Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 


Nairobi Ringing Group in the Aberdares 

From 31 July to 2 August 1998 the Nairobi Ringing Group visited the 
Aberdares National Park. Our main objective was to track down the elusive 
Striped Flufftail Sarothrura ajfinis, which has been recorded from the high 
moorland in the past. In addition to this search, we carried mist-nets for 
trapping and ringing birds around the Rhino Retreat Lodge where we were 
based. The participants were the ringing group patron, Mark Malallieu, and 
NRG members Mercy Njeri, Ogeto Mwebi, Dan Omolo and Titus Imboma. 
The KWS biodiversity officer of the area, Bernard Ng'oru, accompanied 
and worked with us. 

On the evening of 3 1 July we set up a total of 72 m of mist-nets ready for 
early morning bird banding. Before breakfast the next morning, we had 
already caught a total of 38 birds of 19 species. After breakfast, at about 
10:45 h, we drove off to the moorlands in search of the flufftail. We tried 
luring the bird using tape calls the whole day — but in vain. There was not 
a single response. Nonetheless, we were able to see the endemic Aberdare 
Cisticola and the Alpine Chat at close quarters. We also had a wonderful 
view of the Mountain Buzzard, among other interesting montane birds. In 
the late afternoon we drove back to the lodge, pitched two more nets, and 
ringing continued after a late lunch (16:30 h). 

Until the last minute of our stay we had seen a total of 64 bird species 
within the park. Exciting birds ringed included Moustached Green 
Tinkerbird, Black Saw-wing, Cinnamon Bracken and Brown Woodland 
Warblers, White-browed Crombec, Golden-winged Sunbird and Thick-billed 
Seed-eater. We saw a total of five African Snipe among other waterbirds on 
the high mountain pools and swamps. Rhino Retreat Lodge is one of the 
most wonderful sites for birding within the Aberdares. The forest behind it 
holds a lot of highland forest birds, while the water holes and the salt-lick 
attract a lot of birds in the morning, including Red-fronted Parrots and Ol- 
ive Pigeons coming down to drink. Among many others, we recorded Ru- 
fous-breasted Sparrow Hawk, Red-fronted Parrot, Mountain Greenbul, Af- 
rican Hill Babbler, Mountain Yellow Warbler, Waller's Starling, Abyssin- 
ian Crimsonwing, Black-headed Waxbill and Yellow-crowed Canary. 

Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 


Golden-winged Sunbird 

Sincere thanks goes to the park management for giving 
us free entrance and accommodation, and to our patron 
Mark Mallalieu for organising the trip and providing trans- 
port. — Titus Imboma, Dept Ornithology, P O Box 40658, 

An odd 'raptor' 

Raptor people are an arrogant lot. They think raptors are so smart and per- 
fect. After all, raptors soar majestically about in steady smooth flight, not 
like small flitting things in bushes. They hunt too. They put their flying 
skills to the test and some of them even chase and kill birds in flight. It is 
like watching a cheetah full stretch after gazelle. 

All other birds give raptors respect, screaming out warnings and diving 
for cover. So they should. I mean they are lesser things, and well, they 
should know their humble place. Know what I mean? 

I was standing outside my house on the Athi Plains on the 2 January 
1998 in the morning when I heard all the small birds let out warning cries. 
Oh good, I thought, a raptor is somewhere about. Sure enough I spotted a 
medium-sized raptor at about 2 km distance chasing what must have been a 
small bird. It zoomed and zig-zagged about and cut off the small bird just 
feet from the ground. Ah ! Such magnificent powers of flight. I marvelled as 
I always do at the acrobatics of both contestants. My sympathy split be- 
tween the urge for the raptor to get its hard- won meal, and the urge for the 
meal to get away. As they approached I could see the small bird weave and 
dodge. The relentless pursuer tucked in its wings and stooped. The small 

52 Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 

bird just escaped. But something was bothering me. The raptor was difficult 
to identify. Was it a harrier? It looked long-winged but I have seldom seen 
a harrier so angular and making such a persistent chase. Up, down, left and 
right, following the small bird, which was probably a female Jackson's 
Widowbird, for at least three minutes' active pursuit. 

The two birds came right at me, then at 50 m they turned and I was 
gobsmacked. The 'raptor' had a long beak! Yes, of all the most ridiculous 
things. This definitely was one heck of a weird bird. But surely the flying 
skills made it a hawk? What? It has a long neck too! Man alive, look, it also 
has long legs! This simply is impossible. Only raptors fly and hunt this way. 
Sure I have seen crows of various sorts, and shrikes make rude dashes at 
small birds, but nothing like this. Well what do you know: it's a heron, a 
Black-headed Heron. 

The flight continued past and the heron endeavoured to catch the bird in 
its bill. Finally the small bird dived into a tree and the heron continued in its 
awkward unassuming flight to land further on in the tall grass. There it 
could go about its business stabbing insects, and the occasional rodent. 

There used to be a large roost of Black-headed Herons at the Timau 
Petrol Station. I was standing in the small grove of exotic pines nearby and 
was amazed at the amount of casts on the ground. Huge masses of com- 
pressed hair, feathers, and rodent and bird skulls. I first thought it was a 
convention site for eagle-owls. But the petrol pump attendant told me all 
the herons feeding in the nearby wheat fields roosted there at night. 

So the moral of this story is that although raptors are cool... so is the 
Black-headed Heron! — Simon Thomsett, P O Box 42818, Nairobi 

Born to be survivors 

The Augur Buzzard occurs at very high densities around the Naivasha area. 
This seems to be because there is an abundant supply of food in the form of 
mole rats as well as suitable nesting and perching sites. The Augur Buzzard 
(AB) Project has been gathering information about the factors that influence 
the ecology and biology of this species in the southern Lake Naivasha area. 
Fieldwork has finally concluded, and the data are being put together. We 
thought the following story concerning a pair of Augur Buzzards (ABs) 
would be of particular interest to readers of Kenya Birds. 

Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 53 

The pair in question (known as Rl) nest in an Acacia tree within the 
gardens of Joan Root's residence, close to the Moi South Lake Road. Rl 
reside close to a pair of African Fish Eagles (which have not nested in over 
ten years). Rl successfully nested in 1995, producing one chick, but since 
1996 had been having difficulty in raising chicks. The pair then experi- 
enced four consecutive nesting failures (on two occasions, chicks were seen). 
We were at a loss as to why Rl were having nesting difficulties but sus- 
pected predation pressure. Around the middle of August 1997, Rl were 
seen building a new nest on an Acacia tree and during the first week of 
October, the female AB was seen incubating in the nest while the male was 
busy hunting across the road on Kedong Ranch. During the first week of 
December, two four- week-old chicks were seen calling away frantically for 
food. The female responded by feeding both the chicks with remains of a 
previously killed mole rat. When we next visited on 12 December, both 
chicks were seen healthy and flapping in the nest. 

Events then unfolded as follows: 

12 December: a pile of freshly plucked juvenile AB feathers were found 
underneath the fish eagles' feeding perch on an Acacia overlooking the lake. 
We suspect the chick was attacked in the nest and killed by one of the fish 

18 December: at about 1 0:00 h, a young AB chick was found on the ground 
about 25 metres from the nest. The parents were heard calling frantically 
from a clump of gum trees close to the nest. JR collects the weak and trau- 
matised chick and places it in a dog basket. JR places the dog basket on the 
roof top of her shed (about 20 metres from the nest tree). At noon, the male 
AB comes down on the shed and feeds the chick a lizard. That evening, JR 
accommodates the chick in her house for the night. 

19 December: At dawn, JR replaces the dog basket, complete with chick, 
on the roof of the shed. The chick walks about and saunters to the edge of 
the roof where it perches on a protruding pole. JR feeds it a dead mouse and 
later on the parents provide a large rodent (most likely a mole rat). At dusk, 
the chick responds to the calling parents by attempting to fly, but clumsily 
lands on the ground with a soft thud. JR finds the chick and houses it again 

54 Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 

20 December: As the day before. Parents seen feeding chick. Chick is 
flapping away vigorously from rooftop. Overnight in the house. 

21 December: As the day before. Parents feed the chick a mole rat. The 
chick appears pretty aggressive and tries to eat the mole rat whole. It fails 
and has to tear it up into smaller pieces. JR feeds it a mouse in the evening 
and houses it again for the night. 

22 December: The AB chick is now very confident on the roof top and 
walks to the edge where it perches on a beam of wood jutting beyond the 
roof. The dog basket is removed as chick no longer needs it. 

23-26 December: Parents feed chick regularly on rooftop, but chick is able 
to flap away onto nearby cedar post. 

27 December: Chick seen walking about on the ground near pepper trees. 
JR runs after it, catches it, and returns it on roof top. That evening, chick 
seen again on the ground. 

In the following days, the chick appeared more confident and was calling 
away quite happily. The parents continued to feed the chick even after it 
successfully fledged in early January. — Munir Virani, P O Box 40658, 
Nairobi and Joan Root, P O Box 86, Naivasha. 

Booted Eagle at Tudor Creek 

On 20 February 1998 a Booted Eagle (Hieraaeteus pennatus) arrived on 
the creek. As the bird flew low in front of my verandah I recognised a new- 
comer and straightaway saw the white 'IT shape on the rump and the white 
'lights' between the wings and the body. He (I think of him as 'he' but it 
could have been a she) swooped down low flexing his tail from side to side 
and disappeared over the roof, as most of the interesting birds tend to. . . but 
miracle of miracles he circled back. Doing a fantastic stoop l?e descended 
to the palm tree about 30 yards from my verandah and only slightly below 
it, giving me an incredibly advantageous view point. It was already nearly 
dark and he was obviously preparing to roost, doing extensive preening and 
spreading his tail, wings and every part of his body. I was able to see just 

Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 55 

about every last little spot. His breast was all-over brown so he was obvi- 
ously the rarer dark phase, but once the brown surface was disturbed for 
preening, the base feathers were a wonderful creamy buff. Only when the 
feathers were completely smooth did he look dark. The booted legs had 
extremely long feathers, I would estimate about 8 cm, and they came right 
down to the yellow feet. 

The first day he appeared about 1 8:35 h and stayed until 09:30 h the next 
morning, disappearing (after intensive preening) into the larger trees. I was 
overjoyed when he reappeared in the evening at about dusk and started his 
preening routine. From then on he appeared most evenings at dusk and left 
around 07:30 h the following day, until 1 March when he finally disap- 

Crows on one occasion tried to dislodge him but he completely ignored 
them. One evening just as he was doing his approach to the roost our resi- 
dent goshawk had a go at him, but he simply did another circuit and then 
having shaken the nuisance off alighted on his favourite branch.. He always 
sat on the same branch in exactly the same position. I can understand why 
this eagle is easily overlooked: once he had landed he wa£ almost invisible 
and whilst flying could easily be mistaken for a kite at a casual glance. I 
think his invisibility once he had settled also extended to the other birds. 
The drongos never noticed him and except for the one occasion neither did 
the crows. One afternoon he arrived early and was obviously still a bit 
peckish. He eyed the smaller birds in the bush below but he never made a 
kill so maybe it was a case of his eyes being rather too big for his stomach. 

On the morning after he had departed, the palm tree was filled with 
crows and they were behaving rather strangely, sort of preening all the palm 
leaves with their bills. Maybe he had left some scent they liked or maybe 
his widely sprayed droppings had attracted extra dudus. He certainly dropped 
a lot of lovely buff feathers. The crows have never visited the palm again in 
such a manner. 

It was like losing a member of the family once he had gone. My family 
were pleased not to be tripping over the telescope but I missed his arrival 
every evening and getting up early each morning to watch him wake up, 
opening one eye, then the other before tidying himself, shaking himself 
awake before he departed for the day. Maybe he will follow Booted Eagle 
patterns and return to his roost next year just as they return to the same 
nesting sites. I do hope so. — Marlene Reid, P O Box 80429, Mombasa 

56 Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 

Nesting Ethiopian Swallows at Lewa Downs 

The first time the swallows tried to breed outside my door at Lewa Downs, 
they were a little bit scared of me. They built a mud nest like a small bowl. 
I didn't count the days they took building the nest, though for about eight 
days after finishing moulding it on 27 April 1997 they were taking it in 
turns to sit on the nest. Probably there were some eggs in it. I could not 
check the contents because it was a risky climb onto the roof from inside. 
The roof was made of reeds collected from the swamp. 

Unfortunately, my frequent coming in and out of the house I think dis- 
turbed the birds, and they stopped sitting. After 5 May I didn't see them 
again: sad for me because I had already started filling a nest record card. 

On 17 June 1998 I returned from Nairobi to find that they had built 
another nest just opposite the previous one. This new nest was a little bit 
larger. I was curious to know if they were sitting on eggs or if the nest was 
empty. The next day I brought a ladder and found three eggs. I was worried 
that the birds might reject the eggs after I had touched them, but less than 
two minutes after I came down they were back on the nest and continued 
incubating. They carried on sitting, until on 29 June I first saw an adult 
carrying food to the nest and assumed at least one egg had hatched. The 
chicks started to be noisy, begging for food from their parents, on 3 July. 

Initially both parents slept with the chicks, but from 12 July only one 
adults spent the night there. I think the chicks had grown bigger and the 
nest was too small to accommodate both parents as well, of them. After the 
young birds had fledged, they continued coming back to roost on the same 
nest. However, from 1 2 August I only saw the parents roosting on the nest 
at night. The fledged young ones were nowhere to be seen. My guess is that 
the parents may have chased away the grown-up chicks from there territory 
as happens with other territorial birds. — Venice Kevin Mulai, Lewa Birder's 
Club, c/o Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, Private Bag, Isiolo, Kenya. 

Long-tailed Cormorant fishing on reef 

On the morning of February 12, 1999, the tide was going out on Bamburi 
beach. Great Egrets, Little Egrets, Grey Herons, Black-headed Herons, 
Woolly-necked Storks, Sacred Ibis and various waders were feeding in the 
tidepools on the old reef near the shore. 

Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 57 

Then I noticed a cormorant feeding in the shallow water over the old 
reef. It was swimming and diving. A little while later a flock of seven Long- 
tailed Cormorants flew in and perched on the roof of glass-bottomed boat. 
Soon the swimming cormorant flew up and joined them on the boat. 

The cormorants probably came from the Bamburi Quarry pools across 
the road. I don't think I had seen a Long-tailed Cormorant fishing in the sea 
before. — Fleur Ng 'weno, P O Box 42271, Nairobi 

A Nairobi breeding record for African Cuckoo Hawk 

The Wednesday morning birdwalk visited the University of Nairobi's field 
station at the end of Loresho Ridge on 17 February 1 999, recording, among 
other things, Jackson's, Red-collared and White- winged Widowbirds and a 
large flock of Yellow-Crowned Canaries. At about 11:30 h, participants 
walked up Loresho Ridge road, lined on one side by houses with thickly 
wooded gardens. Suddenly, a sharp-eyed observed spotted a bird of prey in 
a jacaranda on the opposite side of the road. 

Soon we could all see two birds. An adult African Cuckoo Hawk landed 
on the telephone wires about 50 metres away. It was dark grey above; the 
throat and breast were uniform grey, with very broad dark and white bar- 
ring below ^hat. The tail was broadly barred light and dark. The eye was not 
as bright as in other cuckoo hawks I have seen. After several minutes, it 
flew past us into the trees across the road. 

The juvenile bird perched in the jacaranda for a while. It was slightly 
larger than the adult, generally brown above and white below, with a white 
mark over the eye, a noticeable crest, and round dark spots below. The cere 
was yellow. Then it flopped around, losing its balance, then righting itself, 
finally flying off to the jacaranda trees that were leaning over the road above 
us. — Fleur Ng'weno, P O Box 42271, Nairobi 

Grey-crested Helmet-shrike at Oloidien, Naivasha 

Recently there have been three sightings of helmet-shrikes in the Oloidien 
area, in much larger numbers than would seem to be usual [see below]. On 
the evening of 3 August 1998, at around 18:00 h, I saw 17 of these birds in 
Acacia woodland. The first indication I had that they were there was their 
unmistakable and noisy chattering. They were moving, presumably foraging, 

58 Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 

in one direction, flying from tree to tree in open Acacia woodland. One 
inquisitive bird flew and alighted directly above my path and, cocking his 
head, observed me while I observed him! I had an excellent view — striking 
field characteristics being no eye wattle, and also an interrupted black bar 
across the breast, which indicates that these were the Grey-crested Helmet- 
shrikes. — Sarah Enniskillen, Mundui Estate Ltd., P O Box I, Naivasha. 

Sightings of helmet-shrikes north-west 
of Lake Oloidien, Naivasha 

In the past we have observed small flocks of what we have always taken to 
be White-crested Helmet-shrikes (Prionops plumatus) around Oloidien, 
Naivasha. Partly through being unaware of the possible significance of their 
presence, and also preoccupation with other interests, we have not gone to 
the point of studying them as closely as they obviously require. This has 
changed, however, with the sighting by Sarah Enniskillen on their property, 
Mundui, of an unmistakable Grey-crested Helmet-shrike {Prionops 
poliolophus), in company with others which might have been either species 
[see above]. 

We are now putting together a summary of the recent sightings in the 
hope that this renewed interest will lead to worthwhile findings in connec- 
tion with the possible presence of the Grey-crested in this area. All the 
sightings are in the same small area, near Oloidien Lake at approximately 
36 o 25'E,0°83'S. 

2 July 1998: Abdi Anti saw and reported a flock of not less than 12 helmet- 
shrikes in the sparsely wooded Acacia area north-west of Mundui. He did 
not have his glasses with him and adds no details. 

4 July 1998: Abdi Anti and Molu Ndiba encountered no less than 36 hel- 
met-shrikes in one big flock. This flock was seen on Kinja Farm, slightly 
further east than Mundui. As with the earlier observation, the birds were 
seen late in the evening as the observers were returning from work in and 
around Kongoni Farm. After being watched, again without binoculars and 
against s setting sun, the flock flew westward to Mundui and were lost in 
the trees. 

Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 59 

31 July 1998: A group of birders encountered these birds again, apparently 
coming down from the hillside immediately west of where the North Lake 
Road is met by the track that goes round Oloidien and through Mundui 
Estate. A first group of 17 flew over southwards into very tall trees imme- 
diately east of the road, delayed there only a short while and moved on 
south-west, disappearing towards Kongoni Farm. These were followed by 
a pair of birds, and some ten minutes later, another seven were seen flying 
firmly west towards the new A.I.C. compound, but were not seen again. — 
Geoffrey Irvine, P O Box 61, Naivasha. 

[Editors ' note: Sightings of this species have continued around Oloidien 
and we will publish an update in the next Kenya BirdsJ 

Grey-crested Helmet-shrike breeding record 

Following the waterbird count on January 10, 1999, Jennifer Oduori's group 
and mine were driving back through Lake Nakuru National Park on the 
main park road between Baboon Cliffs and the main entrance. Where the 
wooded grassland gave way to acacia woodland, we stopped to look at 
some Coqui Francolins, and noticed a flock of helmet-shrikes low in the 
trees. They were about the size of grey-backed fiscals, had prominent, tufted 
grey crests, black and white wings and tails, and made a variety of tinkling 
sounds. There were about eight of them, moving rapidly through the lower 

On February 6 1 999, driving back from World Wetland Day in Nakuru 
with Catherine Ngarachu, we stopped at the lake access opposite the Wildlife 
Clubs hostel. There the lake had risen close to the road then receded, leaving 
a mudflat full of waders, crakes, moorhens and coots, and flooded trees full 
of Long-tailed Cormorants. As we watched the waterbirds, we noticed black 
and white birds moving gracefully through the low acacia bushes at the 
water's edge. They were Grey-crested Helmet-shrikes, and this time they 
were quite near and I observed them more closely. They were about six in 
number, and several had bright yellow eyes with no eye wattles. 

One of the helmet-shrikes, however, had dark eyes, and I assumed it was 
a juvenile. We noted its short and very straight bit of grey crest, like a 
Mohawk' hairstyle. Another helmet shrike flew into the bush, and the 
juvenile spread and shook one wing. We watched them for a few more 


Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 

minutes as they moved on along the lakeshore, the juvenile following two 
adults, the other three helmet-shrikes moving in the same direction but some 
distance away. It was only in the evening that I noted in 'Birds of Kenya 
and Northern Tanzania' that the Grey-crested Helmet-shrike juvenile was 
'undescribed' — Fleur Ng'weno, P. O. Box 42271, Nairobi 

Hinde's Babblers and Blue Quail near Thika 

On 27 December 1 998, 1 found a Hinde's Babbler close to the D4 1 6 Kakuzi 
road, about 1 1 km north-east of Thika. The bird was calling loudly and 
persistently from the lower branches of a Grevillea tree above sparse Lantana 
bushes between the road and a field of coffee. A search of the area on 2 
January 1999 revealed two Hinde's Babblers in a small Lantana thicket 
about 500 m from the previous sighting. The birds were not relocated when 
I visited the site a week later. 

On 9 January 1 999, Jeffrey James and I (and my dog) were searching for 
Red-chested Flufftails Sarothura rufa in an area of rough grassland and 

Hinde's Babbler 

Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 61 

marsh on the Kangema Farmlands estate about 5 km north-west of Thika. 
JJ flushed a quail from rank grass on the edge of a dense, matted bed of 
sedges, Cyperus sp. The quail flew about 5 m and landed in the dense sedge. 
We walked towards where the bird had landed and flushed it again. It then 
flew along the edge of the sedge bed, disappearing beyond some bushes. 

We noted that it was a tiny gamebird, roughly the size of a Baillon's 
Crake, dark chocolate brown in colour, with a whirring flight on rather short, 
rounded wings (compared with Harlequin Quail Coturnix delegorguei). It 
gave a short 'quip' call when first flushed. The bird's size, structure and 
habitat indicate that it was a Blue Quail Coturnix adansonii, a species with 
which I am reasonably familiar from Malawi. The rather uniform plumage 
indicates that it was a female. This species is now seldom noted in Kenya, 
but its habitat preferences and behaviour may result in it being under-re- 
corded. — Mark Mallalieu, P. O. Box 30465, Nairobi 

The Kinangop Plateau 

Situated between the Kikuyu Escarpment and the Aberdare mountains is a 
high (over 2,400 m), flat stretch of grassland — the Kinangop Plateau. For 
birders the place rings a bell as a hotspot for endangered grassland species 
such as Sharpe's Longclaw and Jackson's Widowbird. The Kinangop 
Grasslands form one of Kenya's 60 Important Bird Areas, and are among 
the most critically threatened of all. 

Going deep into early history, the name originates from the Maasai peo- 
ple, meaning 'flooded area'. It was an important meeting point for barter 
trade between the Maasai and the Kikuyus from the central highlands over 
the Aberdares (which the Kikuyus knew as Nyandarua). 

The plateau was open grassland with fast-flowing rivers and swamps 
and supported myriads of plains game, including various antelope and ze- 
bra, bigger animals venturing out from the Aberdares forests, and of course 
the grassland birds. 

In the early decades of the century the invasion of European settlers 
turned it into a section of the 'white highlands' and wildlife had to give way 
to wheat farms, dairy cattle and sheep. To drain the swamps, Eucalyptus 
and wattle trees were planted. Then came independence, the demarcation 
of land, small-scale farming and the multiplication of the trees as a good 
source of fuel wood. The current result? Introduced plants and animals have 

62 Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 

taken over from the original grasslands and their wildlife. The soils have 
been poisoned by the exotic trees and the grassland that remains is often 
over-grazed. A forest on the escarpment which supported indigenous trees, 
mammals and birds is almost dead, cleared and burned. 

Early in 1998 some concerned individuals raised the conservation issue 
and formed a group by the name 'Friends of Kinangop Plateau'. The group 
is looking for a way to divert the current trend before the natural plants and 
animals of the plateau are lost completely. Obviously, going back to the 
previous grasslands is next to impossible. The only hopeful solution, which 
is already taking off nicely, is planting of indigenous trees and other plants. 
These can do well with the small-scale farming providing they don't com- 
pete and negatively affect other plants. The end results might be modified 
versions of indigenous forest and grassland that still maintain the quality of 
the soil and some of the plateau's biodiversity. They may also help con- 
serve the various dams, over 30 of which have been introduced over the 
years. These support a wide range of waterfowl and have been the subject 
of interesting wetland counts. 

The group 'Friends of Kinangop Plateau' is composed of individuals 
concerned for the environment, primary and secondary schools who are 
members of Wildlife Clubs of Kenya and have been actively involved in 
conservation, and various community groups who have successfully started 
tree nurseries of indigenous trees. This note is to request any person or 
organisation who would help with ideas to come and help us programme 
the project to suit the community and retain the best habitat, for a better 
plateau in the future. — James Wainaina, P O Box 695, Naivasha. 

[Editors ' note: For more information on this and other IB A site-support 
groups, see elsewhere in this issue.] 

Bird records from northern Kenya forests 

Mt Kulal 

Over the months of November and December 1 997, we made an expedition 
to M. Kulal as part of our efforts to study the ecology of forest bird commu- 
nities in northern Kenya. Mt Kulal forest turned out to be a thrill in terms of 
both bird-watching and ringing, both of which we did for as many hours as 
the el niho rains allowed us during the 28 days we spent there. The journey 

Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 63 

to the place was not easy though. On our way, we had an unexpected chance 
to watch birds at the foot of Mt Nyiro for four days. We had to stop there to 
wait for the 'bandit fever' which had gripped the area between Mt Nyiro 
and Mt Kulal to cool down a little. 

The Kurungu area at the base of Mt Nyiro was quite green following the 
heavy rains. The Acacia-dominated woodlands were now tempting birding 
parks for us. We managed to record about 80 bird species within the four 
days. Bird watching sessions were kept noisy by the chucking and chuck- 
ling notes of Von der Decken's and Eastern Yellow-billed Hornbills, and 
the sharp repeated calls of the Grey Wren- Warbler. Unexpected sightings 
over this short period included Pearl-spotted Owlet and Donaldson-Smith's 
Nightjar. The northern race of the White-headed Mousebird was also often 
seen. The migrant Black-and-white and Great Spotted Cuckoos were in 
evidence, and some birds were nesting: we saw White-browed Coucal with 
two eggs, and a pair of Yellow- spotted Petronia nesting in an Acacia tortilis 
tree hole. 

Our first attempt to reach Kulal ended in a day-long car-pushing exer- 
cise when we got stuck in mud. However, a day later we arrived at the 
mountain and then it was action until 1 8 December. We had 30 bird species 
in our mist-nets and a total of about 250 individuals ringed. Seventy-seven 
bird species were recorded in the forest or in the habitats adjoining it above 
1,500 m altitude. Among them 16 were probable new listings for the area. 

New records for the Bird Atlas of Kenya, square 26B 

Dusky Turtle Dove: generally observed calling from the top of very tall 

trees in forest. 
Klaas s Cuckoo: calling in the forest. 

Montane Nightjar: frequently heard and seen around the village of Gatab. 
Spot-flanked Barbet: observed in the Woodland adjoining the forest at about 

1,700 m. 
Alpine Swift: seen several times flying in groups with other swifts. 
Lesser Honey guide: captured in forest approximately 30 m from the edge. 

(Also found on Mt Nyiro and Mt Marsabit.) 
Nightingale: captured at forest edge. 

Sprosser: captured in the same net as the Nightingale, two days later. 
Blackcap: commonly seen and caught at the forest edge, sometimes also in 

forest interior. 

64 Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 

Chiffchaff: seen twice in riverine trees in middle of forest. 

Northern Puffback: Several observed and heard at Kulal while two females 

were caught in nets at the edge of a grass glade. (Recorded also in Horr 

Valley, Mts Nyiro and Marsabit.) 
Sharpens Starling: A group of six seen flying over the forest. 
Beautiful Sunbird: One female captured on 14/12/98 in the woodland. 
Abyssinian White-eye: A small flock observed outside the forest, at 1 ,700 m 

Purple Grenadier: Two caught in net at forest edge, and a pair observed 

building a nest that already contained two eggs. 
Stripe-breasted Seedeater: Observed on several occasions in the bushland 

below Gatab, between 1,500 and 1,700 m. 

Leroghi Forest 

It took only ten donkeys, a few more workmen, our food ration and the two 
of us (the determined ornithologists) to obtain some information on the 
avifauna of Leroghi forest. We did as much as possible within the short 
time available (18 April to 21 May 1998), camping and working around 
five stations within the forest. Each of these had its own distinctive fea- 

Ngurumaut (2,260 m), 19-24 April: a strip of light forest with Olea africana 
and Juniperus procera and low bushes of Rhus natalensis and Maytemus 

Sordon (2,450 m), 25 April-] May: a high, cold and more diverse part of 
forest interior with open river valleys and glades. Podocarpus sp., Nuxia 
conge sta and Cassipourea malosana are common trees. 

Bauwa (1,870 m), 2-8 May: next to the forest edge. The forest part is domi- 
nated by Croton megalocarpus and Olea europea in the lower storey, 
and Podocarpus sp. and Juniperus procera above. 

Peto (Nangaro) (2,080 m), 9-13 May: among the Karissia hills. This part of 
the forest is more closed below, dominant tree species being Podocarpus 
sp., Cassipourea malosana, Olea hochstetteri and Brucea 

Ltilia (2,160 m), 14-19 May: forest edge on top of a cliff that faces the 
Matthews Range and the Ndottos. The forest edge is dominated by Olea 

Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 


Chestnut-throated Apalis 

Poro (2,400 m), 20-21 May: 
two days were spent assess- 
ing light Juniperus forests 
between Poro and Maralal. 

We were able to record (by 
observation and calls) about 
200 bird species. The 500 or 
so individual birds mist-net- 
ted and ringed comprised 5 1 

At Ngurumaut, large 
of Yellow White-eyes 
were corrimon, foraging up 
large trees or low bushes and 
moving into or out of the 
forest in the morning or 
evening. We were wel- 
comed by the trilling and 
chattering of Chestnut- 
throated Apalis and YellowX&hiskered Greenbul respectively. Three White- 
headed Wood-hoopoes were>cVistantly feeding young ones in a tree-hole 
nest. We spared time to collect qka on what was being fed, how often, and 
by whom. 

Along river valleys, there were many nest holes of Cinnamon-chested 
Bee-eaters. Apart from the Yellow- whiskered Greenbul, we observed and 
ringed Cabanis's and Mountain Greenbul. The Mountain Greenbul was only 
recorded at the Sordon campsite (one ringed, one observed). It has not been 
reported in the forest before. Common species in the forest included Abys- 
sinian Ground Thrush, African Hill Babbler, White-starred Robin and Yel- 
low White-eye. Grey Cuckoo Shrike was also common in some parts, mostly 
seen foraging high on Podocarpus trees. Red-fronted Parrots and Olive Pi- 
geons were often seen flying quite high above the trees, usually in the 
evening, possibly coming back to roost in the main forest after feeding in 
more distant patches. Indeed, when we visited Poro, in a forest strip along a 
river valley about 6 km from the main Leroghi forest, we found many Olive 
Pigeons resting and feeding in the high trees. Cinnamon Bracken and Moun- 

66 Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 

tain Yellow Warblers were ringed and observed at Ngurumaut and Sordon 
river valleys at the edges of open grass glades next to dense forest. 

Our site at Bauwa was at the lower edge of the forest and the vegetation 
here is not really closed. Our camp was next to a marshy stream. At the 
western edge of the forest is an extensive grassland with scattered Acacia 
trees. We ringed 28 species among the 67 individuals caught and recorded 
82 species in the area. They included forest edge and woodland birds, among 
them African Black Duck, African Harrier Hawk, Tambourine Dove, Afri- 
can Emerald Cuckoo, Moustached Green Tinkerbird, Scaly-throated 
Honeyguide, African Hill Babbler, Abyssinian Ground Thrush, White- 
browed Robin Chat, Grey Apalis, Purple-throated Cuckoo-shrike, Black 
Cuckoo-shrike, Violet-backed Starling and Red-headed Weaver. 

Ltilia, our last camp, sits on top of a cliff that faces the extensive plains 
towards Wamba. From the cliff one can see the Matthews Range and the 
Ndottos to the east. From the plain below the cliff we could hear calls of 
woodland birds including Slate-coloured Boubou, Boran Cisticola and Ru- 
fous Chatterer. Occasionally we could see herds of elephants and buffaloes 
and at night, the roars of leopards and lions. We concentrated most of our 
work (bird ringing, observation and censuses) in the forest, starting from 
the edge. We recorded nine species of raptors soaring over the cliff, namely 
Verreaux's Eagle, African Harrier Hawk, Black Kite, Augur Buzzard, Per- 
egrine Falcon, Booted Eagle, Tawny Eagle, African Crowned Eagle and the 
Bateleur. Little Sparrowhawk was caught in the net as it came to try and 
seize a trapped Brown Woodland Warbler. Groups of African Black Swifts 
were also a common sighting over the cliff. 

Greater Honeyguides guide 

The southern part of the Karissia hills is inhabited by the Ndorobo commu- 
nity. They are traditionally hunters and gatherers, though they have nowa- 
days turned to some cultivation and cattle keeping. 

However, the forest is still a very valuable resource for them in terms of 
honey-harvesting. We witnessed about five cases where our guides (some 
of whom happened to be Ndorobos) used Greater Honeyguides to locate 
bee hives in tree holes. The honeyguide would come to our camp and make 
a vibrating call from the lower branches of a tree. The Ndorobos would 
respond with a repeated 'grrrr-vroom' (a tongue vibration followed by a 
short whistle). The bird would then lead them via repeated perching and 

Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 67 

calling to the point where there was honey. If the person failed to identify 
the hive at the first attempt, the bird would make several other attempts 

Scaly-throated Honeyguide is also a common species in the forest: we 
ringed seven individuals during our one-month stay. It never guided honey 
hunters. We retrapped one ringed Scaly-throated Honeyguide about 5 km 
away from where we had ringed it two days earlier. We also observed a 
Lesser Honeyguide at Peto camp. 

New records for the Bird Atlas of Kenya, square 38D 

African Black Duck 

African Harrier Hawk 

Little Sparrow hawk 

Mountain Buzzard 

Verreaux *s Eagle 

Lanner Falcon: several records. 

African Emerald Cuckoo 

Verreaux's Eagle-Owl: one individual seen on several occasions in the for- 
est, Peto, 12-13/5/98. 

African Wood Owl: heard by night at Ngurumaut. 

African Black Swift: seen at Ltilia. 

Alpine Swift: seen at Ltilia. 

Scaly-throated Honeyguide 

Eastern Honeyguide: seen at Peto (2,070 m) on 9/5/98. 

Mountain Wagtail: three birds seen feeding from banks of stream at Peto 
camp and one seen at Poro dam (at lower altitude). 

Yellow-whiskered Greenbul: common in the forest. 

Mountain Greenbul: one bird ringed and a few others observed at Sordon 

White-starred Robin 

Abyssinian Ground Thrush: common in the forest. 

Mountain Yellow Warbler: common at Sordon. 

White-crested. Helmet-shrike: seen at Bauwa. 

Slate-coloured Boubou: heard at Ltilia. 

Purple-throated Cuckoo-shrike: several ringed and observed at Bauwa and 
Peto campsites. 

68 Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 

Waller's Starling: common in the forest. 
Red-winged Starling: seen at Ltilia. 
Sharpes Starling: common in the forest. 

Other interesting species recorded 

Booted Eagle: one pale morph observed twice on 1 5/05/98 over Ltilia Cliff. 
African Crowned Eagle: displaying over Ltilia Cliff, and heard several times 

in forest. At Bauwa we saw a nest attended by a female. 
Eastern Nicator: one juvenile was observed near Bauwa camp on 8/5/98. 

This species is known from the Karissia hills but its status is uncertain. 

This record suggests that it could be resident. 
Black-billed Weaver: three individuals of this striking weaver were ringed 

and several observed in the southern part of Leroghi forest. 
Brown-capped Weaver: we observed several at Leroghi, especially high 

on Podocarpus. trees. Some appeared to be entering active nests. 

— Kariuki Ndang'ang'a' and Luca Borghesio 12 , 'Department of Ornithol- 
ogy, P O Box 40658, Nairobi and 2 Dip. Biol. Animale, Univ. di Torino, V. 
Ace. Albertina 17, 1-10123 Torino, Italy 

Roadside counts show changes in raptor 
populations around the Naivasha-Elmenteita area 

The two most important factors that limit the distribution and abundance of 
birds (especially raptors) are food availability and nest-site suitability. Popu- 
lation studies of raptors usually involve finding all the pairs of a species in 
a given area over several years. Up to a point, the value of such studies is 
increased the longer they are continued and if information on other aspects, 
such as nest success, is obtained at the same time. However, such studies 
require a great deal of time (not to mention funding) as well as an obsession 
with learning more about a particular species. Raptor road counts are, by 
far, a quicker and more fun way of understanding the distribution of raptors 
and changes that occur in their populations over time. 

Many authors have repeatedly demonstrated the widespread decline in 
the numbers and diversity of raptors resident in Europe. The causes respon- 
sible for this decline were human persecution, the destruction of natural 
habitat, and the effects of persistent toxic chemicals. All these three factors 

Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 69 

are in widespread and often large-scale operation in East Africa (particu- 
larly in Kenya). In Kenya, hardly any published studies exist of sufficient 
scale and length to demonstrate long-term trends in raptor populations. The 
only long-term study is that of declining population trends shown by the 
African Fish Eagles at Lake Naivasha. This species is large and charis- 
matic, and shoreline counts made by boat are conducted periodically and 
are of course fun, since the main objective is to count the eagles. 

In contrast, driving from Nairobi to Mombasa is tiring and often tedious 
(given the conditions of the roads). But if you concentrate on the tops of 
trees and telephone poles (not just the potholes), you will often be rewarded 
by the sight of a raptor perched motionless on these structures. Soon, with 
perhaps a little help and guidance, you will be able to identify and record 
them. Then driving is fun as well as productive, since you will be helping to 
collect long term data for changes that are taking place in raptor populations 
all over the Kenyan countryside. These can in turn be related to changing 
land-use patterns. 

Counting raptors in tropical habitats is difficult: this is even true for 
relatively open landscapes such as savanna grasslands. In Africa, several 
observers have been counting raptors while driving through the country- 
side. However, none of these counts were undertaken on a regular basis and 
hence comparative studies are usually difficult. Many variables influence 
the results of each individual count, such as composition of the observing 
team, daily variation in distribution of the species over their home range 
and possibly, weather conditions. However, recording the number of kilo- 
metres travelled per species seen can give a useful index of densities of 
raptor populations in an area, if enough counts are carried out. 

In April 1996, April 1997 and August 1997, we counted raptors along 
the road that circumnavigates Lake Naivasha. The average distance trav- 
elled was 89 km. The road counts were conducted as part of an overall 
raptor-banding program around the Lake Naivasha area. Counts began at 
09:00 h from Elsamere Conservation Centre and we drove in a clockwise 
direction around the Moi South Lake Road, joining the Moi North Lake 
Road, onto the Nakuru-Nairobi highway and finally back on the Moi South 
Lake Road, returning to Elsamere at about tea-time. The team usually com- 
prised four or five volunteers (including myself) all fairly competent in iden- 
tifying raptors. 


Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 

The results for all three counts were averaged and compared with figures 
for road counts conducted by Christiaan Smeenk in the Elmenteita area, 
just north of Naivasha. Smeenk conducted these studies regularly between 
September 1 970 and August 1 97 1 , covering a transect route of 42 km. 

The table outlines the results (expressed as the number of kilometres 
travelled for each bird seen): 








% increase/decrease 

Augur Buzzard 



Decreased by 52% 

Tawny Eagle 



Decreased by 5% 

Black-shouldered Kite 



Increased by 44% 

African Fish Eagle 

Not seen 


Not comparable 

Long-crested Eagle 



Decreased by 45% 

White-backed Vulture 

Not recorded 


Not comparable 

Bateleur Eagle 



Decreased by 27% 

Common Kestrel 

Not seen 


Not comparable 

Wahlberg's Eagle 



Decreased by 21% 

Harrier Hawk 

Not seen 


Not comparable 

Verreaux's Eagle 

Not seen 


Not comparable 

Martial Eagle 


Not seen 

Not comparable 

Brown Snake Eagle 


Not seen 

Not comparable 

Black-breasted Snake Eagle 56 

Not seen 

Not comparable 

Looking at the figures in Table 1, it is evident that there has been a decline 
in the number of raptors seen along roadsides since the 1970/71 period. 
Major declines were shown by common roadside species such as Augur 
Buzzards, Long-crested Eagles and Bateleur Eagles (all three are consid- 
ered as resident species). On the other hand, the numbers of Black-shoul- 
dered Kites have increased markedly, perhaps as a result of filling vacant 
spots left by the larger roadside species. 

The decrease of the larger roadside species can be attributed to changes 
in land-uses over time, with a shift from savanna grasslands to small and 
large scale agricultural plots. This has the effect of reducing the foraging 
area available to these birds. As a result, the birds are forced to increase 
their home ranges to sustain their offspring, thus essentially reducing the 
overall carrying capacity. Also, rapidly changing land-use patterns have the 
effect of reducing the suitability of nest trees for larger species such as 
Martial Eagles. Modern agricultural techniques and direct persecution by 

Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 71 

humans has reduced populations of snakes and other reptiles which are an 
important food source for snake eagles. Neither species (Black-breasted or 
Brown) was seen during the 1996/97 counts. 

One can argue that the counts were done by different observers and more 
importantly, that comparing the Naivasha area with Elmenteita is probably 
unjustified. However, both the Naivasha and Elmenteita areas are located 
in the Great Rift Valley, separated by a distance of just 30 km, Climate, soil 
and vegetation in both areas are more or less identical and hence the abso- 
lute population densities of species in both areas are likely to be similar. 
Thus a comparative study is valid — though the results should still be inter- 
preted with caution. — Munir Virani, P O Box 40658, Nairobi. 

Thick-billed Cuckoo in the Taita Hills 

Early in the morning of 26 March 1 998 while undertaking an ornithological 
survey in the Taita Hills forests, I set out on my routine transect counts, this 
time in the forest fragment of Fururu. At the beginning of the second transect, 
my attention was immediately caught by an odd bird banging an insect 
against a branch about 12 m up in a tree. The bird was odd because it was 
not among the usual species I had been encountering in the Taita Hills for- 
est fragments the entire eight months I had been working there. The bird 
was relatively large, had completely white underparts and uniformly grey 
upperparts with a long tail and from its overall shape and size was clearly a 
cuckoo. I watched it for about three minutes before it flew off upwards. I 
followed it to the closest gap in the canopy where I saw it with another of 
the same species circling together above the forest and calling loudly be- 
fore flying away. 


Species : Thick-billed Cuckoo Pachy coccyx audeberti 

Location : Fururu forest fragment, Taita Hills 

Date: 26 March 1998 

Habitat : Small (approx. 4 ha.), very disturbed forest fragment. Main tree 

species are Phoenix reclinataand Tabernamontana stapfiana while main 

undergrowth species is Piper capense. 
Conditions : Cloudy morning, fair light (9:00 am), considerable shading from 

the upper canopy but colours showing clearly; view was directly from 

72 Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 

below and unobscured by twigs. 

Optical equipment : Opticron 10 x 50 binoculars. 

Previous experience of the species : One observed perched for several min- 
utes in the East Usambara lowland forests. The habitat there was a 
Brachystegia woodland. 

General description : A relatively large mostly grey and white bird with a 
relatively long tail which also appeared barred. It was observed while 
on a branch about 12 m high in a tree. It was observed mainly from 
below with extra facial features seen as it occasionally banged an insect 
against the branch. Its size, shape and behaviour suggested a large cuckoo. 

Two individuals were later observed circling above the forest with flight 
pattern and wing shape very falcon-like. 

Similar species : There were no other birds around the area at the time of 

Confusion species: Usually confused with small falcons which prey on in- 
sects as well but the behaviour of banging prey against the branch is 
very un-falcon-like. The bill was not sharply decurved and hooked like 
a falcon's. 


Body size slightly smaller than e.g. Taita Thrush size but tail relatively long, 
U pperparts were uniform grey, Wings long, grey with pale edging and tips 
to the primaries, Underparts were mainly white (throat and belly) with 
very indistinct streaking on flanks under the wings, the tail was relatively 
long and appeared barred dark on white; the Ml was relatively short (i.e. 
compared to most other cuckoos) and the lower mandible (observed from 
below) was clearly yellow; it had an orbital ring which was orange-yellow. 
The flight of the bird was moderately fast with steady wing beats whilst 
observed circling above the forest; the call heard in flight was a series of 
repeated sharp (or harsh) short notes that accelerated towards the end: 'tshi- 


This bird is relatively rare and is described by Zimmerman et al. {Birds of 
Kenya and Northern Tanzania, 1 996) as an uncommon local resident of 
Kenyan coastal forest and Brachystegia woodland from Sokoke along the 
lower Tana River to Garsen. It has been observed away from the coast in 

Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 73 

the East Usambara Mountains of Tanzania (Cordeiro and Githiru, Bulletin 
of the African Bird Club 5: 1 3- 1 6, 1998) albeit in its preferred habitat, 
Brachystegia woodland. This would be the first record of the bird away 
from the Kenyan coast and not in or close to Brachystegia woodland. How- 
ever, the Taita Hills forests are only about 160 km from the Kenyan coast, 
hence not a very unusual extension in the range of a bird known to have 
seasonal movements (Fry etai, Birds of Africa vol. 3, 1988). Furthermore, 
it is known to inhabit riparian forests which are present along the rivers in 
the Taita Hills. — Mwangi Githiru, Ornithology Dept., P O Box 40658, 

Colonial waterbirds at Naivasha, Elmenteita and 
Nakuru, January to August 1998 

In January 1998 Dr David Harper of Leicester University wrote from 
Elsamere to Dr Geoffrey Irvine and the late Frank Turner asking for a sur- 
vey on a weekly basis, if possible, of the Great Cormorant breeding colony 
at Oloidien, Lake Naivasha. This was suggested as a follow up to a study 
done by Brooks Childress in 1995 and 1996. Participants were asked par- 
ticularly to note the proportions of crayfish to fish pellets beneath certain 
nest areas. Childress's observation was that a larger percentage of crayfish 
were fed to very young nestlings, changing to fish as the young matured. 

The first move was to obtain permission to enter private property, and 
this was most kindly given by Mrs June Zwagger of Oserian in mid-March. 
At this time it was found that the colony had adults sitting on eggs and 
many young. 

Two sites were chosen at opposite sides of the colony where 12' x 12' 
areas were cleared under trees heavily occupied by nests. Site one had the 
most adults sitting on eggs, site two had the most immatures sitting beside 
adults. A weekly check has been kept of material dropped and pellets found 
on the cleared areas. As at mid-May only a few eggshells were being found, 
indicating a slowing up of laying. The results bear out Childress's observa- 
tions. When nestlings were small large quantities of crayfish pellets were 
found, and that owing to spaced egg laying these have been replaced by fish 
pellets, and whole tilapia of 7-10 cm size. On 15 May, gill worm which had 
evacuated from the dead fish were seen for the first time. Of a marked area 
of the colony seen from the observation post, 90% of young were fully 


Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 

fledged and three-quarters of these were the size of their parents. There was 
vigorous wing-flapping and stretching and an occasional flight out by fully 
fledged immatures. Also for the first time Great White Pelican were fishing 
in the vicinity. At the previous visit to the colony, two immature Black- 
headed Heron alighted on the highest tree and surveyed the area for thirty 
minutes before flying off. No agonistic behaviour from the occupants was 

Ian Marshall joined the observers in early April as he had been investi- 
gating increases offish in the Nakuru Wildlife Forum area, which stretches 
from the Lake Nakuru catchment to Mt Longonot. Owing to lack of fish, 
the old cormorant colony at the Njoro river mouth, Lake Nakuru had not 
been rebuilt and it appeared possible that this population was now at Oloidien. 
In early May, however, shoals of small fish were seen with their attendant 
catchers the Great White Pelican, along the west shore of Lake Nakuru 
from the Njoro River mouth to Baboon Cliffs. At this time, flotillas of 
fishing pelicans were very small and only eight Great Cormorants were 
counted along this portion of shore. The pelicans were also to be seen fishing 
sporadically in Lake Elmenteita, and had started nesting on the rocky is- 
lands in the north-west sector. African Spoonbills were also nesting on one 
of the Elmenteita islands. The levels of both lakes had risen substantially as 
a result of the heavy El Nino rains. 

Dramatic changes occurred soon after this at Nakuru. As fish populations 
increased, the cormorants re-established an active nesting colony at the Njoro 
River mouth, but in small Acacia xanthophloea trees some distance from 

the water. By late 
Elmenteita suffered 
sites were inundated 
ceased. The spoon- 
4 young before their 

Observations at 
but the situation at 

Great Cormorant 

August, the Great White Pelicans at 

a reversal of fortunes as their nest 

by the still-rising lake, and nesting 

bills, however, managed to rear 3- 

nest sites were covered by the 

Oloidien ceased in late July 
Elmenteita and Nakuru con- 
tinues to be monitored. — 
Ian Marshall, Delamere 
Estate, Private Bag, 

Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 75 

Threatened birds of Kenya 
11: Kulal White-eye 

Luca Borghesio 1 2 and Kariuki Ndang'ang'a 2 

1 Dip. Biol. Animale, Univ. di Torino, 1-10123 Torino, Italy and 

'Department of Ornithology, P O Box 40658, Nairobi 

White-eyes (family Zosteropidae) are a group of mostly tropical species, 
which, despite their fragile appearance, have proved to possess an amazing 
ability for crossing hostile habitats and colonising far-flung places. As a 
result, the vast majority of the about 85 species are distributed on islands. 

Although genuine 'islands' are scarce in East Africa, East African White- 
eyes have been able to find something quite similar. These are small forest 
fragments, scattered in a 'sea' of arid or sem-arid environments. Such sites 
are numerous in Kenya and northern Tanzania, and have been rightly called 
'forest islands' by several authors. Therefore, it's no surprise that the little 
yellow birds are found on top of most of the mountains of our region! But 
here starts the problem: isolated populations tend to diverge from each other, 
slowly and inexorably, owing to what is called 'genetic drift'. As a 
consequence, white-eyes in East Africa comprise a large number of forms 
that differ in their appearance. Depending on one's point of view, these can 
be treated as separate species or simply as a set of sub-species. The result is 
a sort of systematic wilderness, where different authors have described as 
many as seven or as few as three species of Zosterops in Kenya and Tanzania. 

One of these puzzles is the Kulal White-eye. Some consider it a good 
species, which should be called Zosterops kulalensis. Others prefer to treat 
it as a race of the Yellow White-eye (in which case, the correct scientific 
name should be Zosterops senegalensis kulalensis). Still others choose to 
place it in the so-called Montane White-eye, and name it Zosterops 
poliogaster kulalensis. Nobody knows which of these possibilities reflects 
its real relationships. Indeed nobody knows much about this bird at all, 
except that it has an incredibly restricted range, on top of Mt Kulal, an 
extinct volcano east of Lake Turkana. We also know that the very small 
distribution almost automatically makes it an endangered tax on, because 
human pressure on the forest of Mt Kulal is increasing. 

76 Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 

In November 1997 we reached the small village of Gatab, on the south 
slopes of Mt Kulal. We aimed carrying out a survey of the avifauna of the 
area, and especially of its endemic white-eye. This was the start of forty 
days of very hard work, under the torrential rains caused by El Nino. Around 
us the ill-famed Chalbi looked much more like a golf course than a lifeless 
desert... and on top of the mountain we had almost continuous rain and 
mist and high winds for all of our stay. Nonetheless we obtained some re- 
sults, and they were quite encouraging. Several white-eyes were mist-net- 
ted, and blood samples taken before they were released. DNA will be ex- 
tracted from the blood and analysed, providing (we hope) a clearer insight 
into the systematic status of these birds. This will take time, however! Mean- 
while we collected a good amount of ecological and behavioural field data. 
First of all, as we saw, the white-eyes were common, perhaps the common- 
est species: almost one in four birds captured in the mist nets was a white- 
eye. They occurred in all habitats from 1 500 m upwards and estimates for 
the total population were in the order of 10,000 individuals... not bad! 

Kulal White-eyes were quite varied in their food choice, as they ate fruit, 
nectar, insects, indeed every food item of appropriate size. We can be sure 
that they will not starve to death. Perhaps a more interesting discovery is 
that they were 'commuters'. They seemed to spend the night in the dense 
vegetation of the forest, but every morning huge flocks were observed at its 
edges, moving towards the drier habitats around, where they scattered in 
smaller groups that foraged among twigs. In the evenings they returned to 
the forest. It is not clear whether these movements occur all year round or 
perhaps only during the wetter months, when drier habitats become more 
productive. Still, we can confidently say that the white-eyes, at least for 
part of the year, are not completely dependent on the very restricted forest 

On the whole, the highest densities of birds were found in the open for- 
est, that is areas with typical forest trees (such as Juniperus and Olea) but a 
low and discontinuous canopy. Lower densities were observed in very dense 
and tall vegetation and in the drier bushlands dominated by Acacia. In the 
forest, white-eyes clearly preferred glades and openings to places with a 
more continuous canopy. So, they seemed to be mostly an edge species, 
and this certainly has important consequences from the conservation point 
of view. Human activity on Kulal seems at present to be causing a slow 
thinning of the forest. Glades are being opened in dense habitats and edges 

Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 77 

are generally increasing. This means that impacts on white-eyes, at least until 
now, have probably been limited, as their preferred habitat is still available, indeed 
on the increase. But as time passes, human population, firewood extraction, felling 
of trees for honey gathering and cattle pasturing are steadily growing, and will 
certainly cause the death of the forest if no action is taken. How much time is left? 
We don't know, but from experience elsewhere, probably not much. 

What are we to conclude? Well, there is still time for action, but the time will 
expire soon. The forest of Kulal is of prime importance, not only for its endemic 
bird, but also for the people living in it, and they are now many. Sustainable exploi- 
tation is probably still possible now, if the right measures are put in place... will 
they be? 

In November 1997, Rod Hall from British Airways Assisting Conservation 
visited Ngulia to work with the bird ringing team. He hatched the idea of 
two Nairobi Ringing Group members travelling to Europe in the winter — 
and thus having a first-hand experience of why the birds were migrating 
south! Just under a year later, after much planning and preparation, 
Nicodemus Nalianya and Bernard Amakobe finally set off for England. 
Amakobe reports on their experiences. . . 

Nairobi ringers in England and Portugal 

Bernard Amakobe, P O Box 40658, Nairobi 

After almost three months of planning, seeking advice, excitement and ex- 
pectation, shuttling from one office to another and many triumphs and dis- 
appointments, we eventually set off on a trip well planned by British Air- 
ways Assisting Conservation, the RSPB, A Rocha (Portugal), RSPB, the 
Ornithology Department and Nature Kenya. 

We left Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) promptly as sched- 
uled on 4 October 1998 on board a British Airways plane. Not to dampen 
our excitement we were shifted from our earlier assigned seats to the luxury 
of Club World class. Undeniably we were nervous. Anyway, it was not to 
last a lifetime and eventually we found ourselves at Gatwick Airport. Early 
morning London and our drama started to unfold. Within two hours we 
were shuttled by our hosts to Dungeness on the south-east coast of Britain, 

78 Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 

our home for the following week. The one thing suddenly obvious to us 
was the extreme weather difference between Kenya and our host country. 
Having left Nairobi at 28°C it was now just 7°C — bitingly cold to us but to 
our hosts a mild autumn day. What a contrast. 

The main objective of the tour was to obtain a clearer insight into how 
bird ringing is conducted in Europe. This could only be done through prac- 
tical first-hand experience in the nature reserves and ringing stations them- 
selves. We also expected some hints from the reserve managers on how 
they run their sites and manage information. Apart from ringing we were 
expecting to assist practically in all types of reserve maintenance duties. 


Dungeness is the largest shingle foreland in the world. Shingle is a rare 
coastal habitat only common in Japan, New Zealand and north-west Eu- 
rope. It consists mainly of rounded pebbles of flint. About a third of the 
landscape is vegetated, the rest being exposed to the elements of nature. 
The shingle itself was formed when chalk weathered in huge amounts dur- 
ing the ice age, and released embedded flint to form the beaches of the 
English Channel. At Dungeness the shingle is pitted with open pools, some 
of them disused gravel quarries, others unique natural excavations, prob- 
ably caused during storms in the past. 

Dungeness is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest because 
it shelters unique plant, insect and bird species. It projects four miles into 
the English Channel and has a maritime climate. Frequent winds mean a 
cooler summer and slightly warmer winters than further inland, but less 
rainfall. Most plants grow poorly in these stressful conditions, but lichens 
thrive in the clean air of the prevailing south- westerlies. 

We spent three days ringing under the keen supervision of David Walker, 
the ringing warden. Immediately, we were impressed by their ringing sta- 
tion, a comfortable enclosed cabin (our ringing is done in the open!). Their 
data collection book setting was not different from ours but they took to- 
tally different biometrics from us, except for the wing length. Still, we held 
out own when given a chance to handle the birds. 

New to us at Dungeness was the Heligoland trap. This is a bird trap set 
up in sparse bush or scrub, against which background the meshwire is nearly 
invisible. The birds are clearly unaware of its presence as they search for 
food in the bushes around. When birds are to be caught, they are driven 

Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 79 

from the bushes inside the trap to a central point, where there is a glass 
enclosure. The trapper unsnaps a swinging door that encloses the birds in 
the glass box, which has outlets only accessible to the trapper himself. When 
no ringing is going on, the trap is de-activated to ensure birds move freely. 
We were really amazed by how well the trap worked. It is a widely used 
method, as we found this kind of trap in all the other ringing stations, even 
in Portugal. 

We managed to ring birds such as Blackbird, Blackcap, Chaffinch, 
Chiffchaff, Goldcrest, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Greenfinch, Hedge Spar- 
row, the very distinctive Ring Ouzel, Robin, Sedge Warbler, Siskin, 
Sparrowhawk, Starling, Willow Warbler and Wren, just to name a few. 

Another construction that impressed us was the bird hides. This made it 
amazingly simple to watch a very diverse variety of ducks and waders with- 
out distracting their attention or scaring them into flight. We were also in- 
troduced to seashore bird watching and counting. As Dungeness is right on 
the English Channel, bird hides are build on the shoreline. Many of the sea 
birds are attracted by waste water from a nuclear power plant on the re- 
serve. The recycled water contains fish and other food materials trapped in 
the process, providing easy food for many birds such as Herring Gulls, 
cormorants, gannets and Kittiwakes, which are easy to spot from the hides. 

We took part in all sorts of maintenance tasks on the reserve, including 
cutting down trees. Do not get alarmed! Generally we believe that trees 
always have a positive side, but these were to go as they were used as breed- 
ing grounds by Magpies and Carrion Crows and a vantage point for Kes- 
trels, which go ahead and prey on other birds and their eggs. They in par- 
ticular destroy nesting sites of the Lapwings and Redshanks, which are be- 
ing persecuted in many ways. We also had demonstrations of mink trapping 
(and actually saw one trapped). These small, introduced mammals are also 
very destructive. They will eat anything in the vicinity and thus have to be 
got rid of. The traps are set on the shore of the small open pits at strategic 
places, always hidden in vegetation. The minks walk in readily as they are 
very inquisitive animals. They are shot as soon as they are discovered as it 
is inhumane to leave them to starve to death. 

Around 800 pairs of Black-headed Gulls and 250 pairs of Sandwich 
Terns can be seen at Dungeness. By creating pools and lakes on the reserve, 
the RSPB has provided suitable habitat for wintering wildfowl. Over 50 
species of birds now nest on the reserve, many using the wetland areas. All 

80 Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 

this is due to a concerted management effort by the RSPB. The reserve 
managers also take great care in the way they deal with visitors and RSPB 

Radipole and Arne 

After a very successful first week we now took a train bound for Wey- 
mouth, in the south-west of England. From the station we were taken straight 
to a small shoreline town called Portland, to stay at the bird observatory. 
Unfortunately the weather was so windy and severe that no meaningful 
ringing or bird watching could be done. We still enjoyed the beauty of the 
magnificent shoreline along the English Channel, complete with cliffs and 
hills in the background. The observatory is housed in a former light house 
that is about 400 years old, which in itself was exhilarating. 

After three nights we moved to Radipole Lake, a unique reserve right in 
the centre of Weymouth. The key habitat is reed-beds, a very important 
breeding and roosting ground for species such as the Bittern, Bearded Tit, 
Reed Warbler, Cetti's Warbler and Reed Bunting. Radipole covers 1 90 acres 
although roads, railway and urban development have encroached on it. The 
reserve contains four main habitats: open water, scrub, reed beds and salt 
marsh. The reeds are managed mainly to attract the Bitterns to roost and 
breed: these birds are now endangered in Britain due to habitat loss. The 
management are also anxious to increase the numbers of other reed-bed 
species. The fields surrounding the reserve are also soon to be converted to 
reed-bed habitat as this is 

The warden, Martin Slater, told us about their future plans for the lakes 
and reed beds, and how they managed their information on computer. It 
was interesting that management decisions were based directly from the 
data obtained from the field. This meant that data facilitated appropriate 
action and sensible allocation of funds. As at Dungeness and the other 150 
plus RSPB reserves, five-year plans were prepared and reviewed regularly, 
which ensured there was no misapplication of funds. 

We could not do any ringing but bird-watching in and around the re- 
serve more than compensated for this. We spotted Cetti's Warbler and a 
superb male Reed Bunting (though not, in the end, the Bearded Tit). Also 
an odd-looking dog on the grassy fields of the reserve — which turns out to 
be more British wildlife, a fox! 

Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 81 

Arne Nature Reserve 

Our kind warden decided that without visiting Arne we will not have seen 
the best of Dorsetshire and we set off for a day tour to this heathland. Arne 
is a 500 ha nature reserve including 300 ha of lowland heath and extensive 
salt marshes that lead to the mud flats of Poole harbour. 

The RSPB has had a nature reserve here since 1 965. The reserve is mainly 
open heathland, a type of habitat that is rapidly disappearing in Dorset. By 
careful management of the land, the RSPB is trying to safeguard the typical 
species of heathland. For instance, this is one of the few remaining areas in 
Britain where the rare Dartford Warbler occurs. All six British reptiles are 
present, which include the very rare smooth snake and sand lizard. 

Heathland conservation is unusual. The main concerns are elimination 
and prevention of encroachment by alien species. One of the most dangerous 
colonists is the pine, which kills everything under its base when well 
established. It forms a very thick layer of cones and shed leaves that do not 
allow heath to grow. The other woody species causing real havoc is 
rhododendron, which spreads steadily and successfully. It eventually forms 
a dense tangle of branches and completely destroys the native flora. Without 
proper management, scrub and bracken would invade heathland and easily 
overwhelm it. It is preserved using both traditional and modern approaches, 
through scrub clearance, re- introduction of grazing, and controlled burning. 

After fantastic views of Poole Harbour, Curlews, Brent Geese, Shelducks, 
Oystercatchers and Black-headed and Common Gulls, we eventually caught 
up with the rare Dartford Warbler — a real feast for the eyes. As we were 
preparing to depart, the Warden persuaded us to glance at the feeding table 
in the carpark. We were amazed to see Wryneck, Long-tailed Tit and Nut- 
hatch at very close range, along with Great Tit, Chafffinch and Blackbird. 
We eventually left exhausted but extremely happy. 

The next day we braved the trains and the underground all by ourselves 
on our way to The Lodge, Sandy, HQ of the RSPB. Over the next two days 
we had a taste of the RSPB's astonishing range of activities. With over 1 
million members this is a formidable conservation organisation. We also 
are lucky enough to visit the British Trust for Ornithology, the centre from 
which all UK bird ringing is co-ordinated. Rules are very strict in the UK, 
with thorough and vigorous training. We were impressed by the files and 
files of ringing data accumulated over years, which they plan to computer- 
ise for easier storage and retrieval. 

82 Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 

To forestall future regrets, we also paid a visit the Natural History Muse- 
um's bird section in Tring. The collection Manager asked us how large the 
Nairobi collection was and we proudly announced that we had about 23,000 
skins. We were totally stunned to hear that their skin collection alone con- 
tained over 1 million specimens, not to mention the skeletons and speci- 
mens stored in alcohol. In the skin collection we saw some skins prepared 
by Charles Darwin himself, and also had a chance to peep at extinct species 
which are kept under lock and key. 

At this point we realised we had only two hours to board a train and head 
for Heathrow, from where we would fly to Portugal the next morning. 

A Rocha Centre, Portugal 

Lisbon was basking in warm sunshine, allowing us to discard our heavy 
jackets and jumpers. But here was another major barrier, as we could no 
longer communicate with anyone in English. Someone was to meet us at 
the airport, but after two hours no one had appeared. We decided to take 
charge of our own fate. We knew our final destination was about four hours 
away and it was already three in the afternoon. With maps from the airport 
tourism office we plotted the best way to reach A Rocha, managing at last to 
board a coach from Central Lisbon. Our destination was Portimao in south- 
west Portugal, in the Algarve province. We knew this was not our final 
destination but it had a certain link to the address of A Rocha. We reached 
Portimao at 7.00 pm and this is when the real saga began. Nobody under- 
stood a word of English and to make matters worse, A Rocha seemed to be 
in quite a remote and inaccessible part of the region. In short, we were 
totally stranded. After enquiring from several taxi drivers and getting no 
constructive help, we started to panic. We tried to telephone A Rocha Cen- 
tre to no avail. But, wait a minute; there was this taxi driver who understood 
English a little better. He informed us that he could not take us to an address 
he himself did not know. He asked us if we had the phone number of our 
would-be hosts, and we half-heartedly gave it to him knowing nothing would 
come of it. 

An idea struck him and he asked us which number we had used. And so 
it turned out that we had been including the code, and the stupid machine 
could not comprehend what we were getting at. When we excluded the 
code number, it was like manna from heaven to hear the machine croak into 
life. So much so that I nearly replaced the receiver in a moment of joy, only 

Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 83 

for Nicodemus to intervene. Anyway, we gave our host our location and 
within half an hour we were again being welcomed with suitable pomp and 

The next morning we had a tour of Quinta da Rocha, on the estuaries, 
marshes and pine woods locally called the bluffs. Eleven lifers clocked up 
— Bluethroat, Water Pipit, Redshank, Fan-tailed Warbler, Water Rail, Az- 
ure-winged Magpie, Spanish Sparrow, Black Redstart, Crested Lark, Gar- 
den Warbler, Little Owl and Peregrine. 

The weather was perfect and we were able to ring for four good days, 
catching some species which many other trainees in Europe would envy us 
handling. The resident warden, Mark Bolton, opted to scribe and supervise 
our ringing, identification and general bird handling techniques. We were 
able to learn important ageing techniques based on minute details — the 
primary and secondary coverts, and the tail moult pattern. It was a real 
challenge. We also polished our skills on fat and muscle scoring tactics. 
Some of the interesting species ringed were Spotted Flycatcher, Reed War- 
bler, Sardinian Warbler, Common and Black Redstarts. 

We really had to tear ourselves away from Quinta da Rocha. However, 
the expedition was over and we were bound for home, liking it or not. Back 
from Lisbon to London, where Paul Buckley from the RSPB had kindly 
offered to take us around for the day to see the sights. No birds this time but 
buildings — and a glimpse of the Queen herself entering Buckingham Pal- 

The trip was a great success in terms of learning about ringing and re- 
serve management. But it also broadened our personal horizons. We met 
and made friends with many people of diverse cultures and ages. Our hosts 
and the many other people we met were very friendly, enthusiastic and easy 
to talk to. From their accounts of different life experiences, we got an impe- 
tus to appreciate who we are and always work hard to improve our social, 
spiritual and economic well being. We hope to make constructive use of 
what we have gained. 


Grateful thanks to B AAC, RSPB and A Rocha for sponsoring our visit, and 
to the many people in England, Portugal and Kenya who extended hospital- 
ity and help. 

84 Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 

How to complete the new 
Nest Record Card 

Colin Jackson 
P O Box 383, Watamu 

Five years ago, the Nest Record Card of the EANHS Nest Record Scheme 
changed face quite considerably. The original 'open-plan' look gave way to 
the current 'boxed' style with a series of options to choose from for each 
category of breeding record. Within each category, a selection of options 
was listed, each one with a number assigned to it to allow for easy input 
into a computerised database. The first update in 1 994 was found to have a 
series of problems making the Card difficult to use. Most of these were 
addressed and the Card improved with the second version in 1996. From 
this second edition we again had a lot of useful feedback from contributors 
to the scheme. When the stock ran out last year we refined the design of the 
Card yet again and now have the third (and perhaps final!) edition. This 
latest edition is blue and slightly smaller (thus fitting into your field note- 
book more easily!), but it has other, more important, new features that are 
summarised below, along with more detailed instructions on how to com- 
plete a Card. The idea is to help Kenya Birds readers have a better under- 
standing of how the Cards are used and thus be able to contribute more 
effectively to the Nest Record Scheme — we look forward to receiving 
many more over the next months! 

Summary of new format 

The basic format is the same as the first re-vamped edition with the various 
major categories of any breeding record divided into boxes. These have 
been ordered in a logical sequence for easier completion, starting on the 
first side of the Card with more general information on the observation 
followed on the second side by the finer details. Sometimes observations of 
the breeding attempt may be too numerous for the space available to write 
them. A separate card (providing a third side to complete) was produced for 
such cases This extra card has boxes for the basic general information that 
links it with the accompanying first Card (i.e. observer name and species). 
It then provides space for any further notes or drawings that the observer 

Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 85 

may want to add. Please note that the more detailed an observation is, the 
more use it is for later analysis and reference. 

Detail of categories for new format 

The numbers on the annotated example of the three sides of the Card 
correspond with those of the sections below. If you contribute to the scheme, 
please read the instructions here carefully as some points may not be so 

Some of the 'boxes' on the Card must be completed if the record is to be 
of any use (for example, a Card that didn't list the species concerned would 
not be of much value). Others provide information that is useful, but not 
essential. Each section below is marked accordingly as either 'always com- 
plete' or 'useful but not essential'. 

1 .Observer [always complete] 

Name : The full name of the observer reporting the record. 
Address : The observer's postal address by which s/he can be contacted; 
telephone and / or email address are also useful. 
Observer no .: This is a number that may be assigned to you by the Nest 
Record Scheme Co-ordinator if you are a regular contributor. It would 
be linked to your name on the computer and used to speed up data 
inputting to the computerised database. Please do not fill this in unless 
you have received a letter with a number from the co-ordinator — as 
yet very few have been issued, but it is hoped that more will be in the 
near future. 

2.Species [always complete] 

Species (Common/Scientific name) : In the space provided, write either 
the full common (English) name of the bird observed breeding or the 
full binomial scientific name. (You can write both if you wish, and can 
fit them into the space, but it is not necessary.) IMPORTANT NOTE: 
You should use the names from either the Checklist of the Birds of Kenya, 
3rd ed, EANHS, 1996, or from The Birds of Kenya and northern Tan- 
zania, by Zimmerman, Turner and Pearson, 1996. The names used on 
the Department of Ornithology's BirdMap Checklist are taken from the 
EANHS Checklist and are therefore also fine to use. DO NOT use the 
names from the Collins Illustrated Checklist to the birds of East Africa 
by Ber van Perlo as many of these are confusing. 

86 Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 

Checklist no .: This is the number beside the species name in the Check- 
list of the Birds of Kenya, 3rd ed, EANHS, 1 996. It is also the same 
number as given on the Department of Ornithology's BirdMap Check- 
list. However, if you do not have access to the number, then do not 
worry — it can be filled in at a later stage in the Society's Office. 

NOTE: The Checklist of the Birds of Kenya, 3rd ed, EANHS, 1 996, 
available at the Nature Kenya (EANHS) office for a mere Ksh 1 00, 
is an extremely useful booklet to have and is highly recommended 
for anyone who as yet does not have their own. 

Date of first observation : Write the date (day /month/year, e.g. 05/1 0/98 
for 5 October 1 998) that the breeding event was first noted. 

3a. Locality — name [always complete] 

Name : The name of the actual site that the breeding event was observed. 
This could be an area of a National Park, the name of a farm, school or 
hotel, a sub-location, a suburb of a town, etc. The name should give as 
much detail about the exact location as possible. Examples might be: 
'Mzima Springs, Tsavo West National Park', or 'Kimuri High School 
compound, North Kinangop' or 'Ngong Racecourse, Nairobi'. 
Nearest town : The name of the nearest village or town that is relatively 
well-known and that can be found on a good map. If you put the name 
of a local centre / village, please also put either the next nearest, larger 
centre that is most likely to be known by more than just the local popu- 
lation, or the area in which it is found, e.g. Fururu, Taita Hills ('Fururu' 
alone will mean nothing to anyone who has not visited that actual site). 
Other details : Any other details that will aid in the detailed locating of 
the breeding record. This may be another name of a town or area that 
will add to the above, or it may be, for example, a description of how 
far along a certain path from a given point that the record was made. 
The more information you can give, the more precisely the record 
can be located. 

Country : Draw a small circle around the number in front of the country 
in which the observation was made. e.g. 01 Kenya 

Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 87 

3b. Locality — Lat/Long & altitude [useful but not essential] 

Lat & Long : These six small boxes are to enter the grid reference for 
the breeding record IF IT IS KNOWN (e.g. if you have access to de- 
tailed maps or a Geographic Positioning System). If you do not know 
it, then do not attempt to complete it but simply send in the Card any- 
way and it will be completed in the EANHS at a later stage — so long 
as enough detail is given in section 3a. 

Altitude : Again, only complete this IF IT IS ACCURATELY KNOWN. 
If you do not know it, then do not complete it. If the altitude is known in 
feet, then write it as such making very clear that it is in feet and not 

Atlas square : This is the Quarter of a Square Degree (QSD) square used 
by the Bird Atlas of Kenya Lewis and Pomeroy, 1989, that the location 
where the breeding record was made falls in. This is explained in full 
on the sheet supplement supplied with Kenya Birds vol. 7, which also 
has a map of Kenya showing all the QSDs for the full country. Copies 
are available upon request from the Department of Ornithology, NMK. 
Again the same applies — IF THE ATLAS SQUARE IS NOT PRE- 
CISELY KNOWN, then do not complete this section. It will be filled in 
at a later stage in the EANHS office. 

4. Season [useful but not essential] 

Dry / Wet / Unseasonal : Circle the number beside the sub-category or 
choice that best fits the season when the record was made. This is some- 
what subjective, but make the best attempt at it. Therefore, for exam- 
ple, if the rains are just beginning, one would circle '04' indicating 
'Early wet season' . If rain is occurring out of its normal pattern, e.g. the 
El Nino rains, then '07' would be most appropriate with 'El Nino* writ- 
ten in the space titled 'Details:'. 

5. Stages of Breeding [always complete] 
01-06: Circle whichever of the six categories were observed for the breed- 
ing record. For many single-sighting records, there will only be one stage 
observed e.g. an adult feeding young away from nest would be category 06. 
However, a breeding attempt that is followed over a number of days or 
weeks will cover several stages, all of which should be marked on the card. 


Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 

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Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 


90 Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1 999 

01 . Courting. This must be breeding display. Beware of other forms of 
display that might be taken for breeding (e.g. territorial, young with 
adult, etc.). 

02. Nest building / carrying nest material. Adult(s) building the nest or 
seen carrying nesting material. This includes excavating a hole in a 
bank or a dead tree (though be aware that birds like barbets excavate 
holes to roost in as well as for nesting). The nest does not need to be 
seen for this stage, though it is preferable. 

03. Nest with contents sighted. For this, the observer has been able to see 
into the nest itself and has checked the contents (eggs, chicks etc). 

04. Dependent young out of nest. In nidifugous species, the young leave 
the nest immediately they hatch and may remain flightless for some 
time. Flightless young out of the nest qualify for this stage. In nidicolous 
species, the chick is helpless, stays in the nest and is tended by the 
adults. A clearly juvenile bird outside of the nest but with wing and tail 
feathers still growing, and with adults nearby, is included in this cat- 
egory. A lone bird simply in juvenile plumage with fully grown feath- 
ers does NOT qualify for this category. 

05. Nest with contents not seen: adult incubating / brooding. When 
observing a nest, one should never disturb an adult that is sitting on 
eggs or brooding chicks. This category covers such cases, as well as 
nests that are too inaccessible for the contents to be seen but where one 
can see that an adult is sitting on the nest, presumably incubating. Be- 
ware that you do not mistake a roosting bird for one that is incubating. 
It is best to watch a nest for some time to confirm that the bird is 
actually nesting. 

06. Nest not seen: adult feeding young / carrying food. Here the nest is 
NOT seen but one or more young birds are actually observed begging 
food from or being fed by an adult. Alternatively, an adult is observed 
carrying food (try to observe where the bird goes to make sure that it is 
not a male courtship-feeding a female, rather than feeding chicks). Note: 
some migratory species (e.g. certain terns) will continue to feed young 
whilst on migration. These are an exception and do NOT qualify for 
this category. 

Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 91 

6. Colony / Brood parasite [complete only when applicable] 

A colony is a group of birds that have built nests near each other and are 
therefore breeding in close proximity. Many weaver species are colonial 
nesters as are herons, cormorants, swifts, and some species of bee-eater, 
among others. A brood parasite is a species of bird which does not build its 
own nest but lays its eggs in the nests of other 'host' species. The best 
known brood parasites are the cuckoos, but honeyguides and indigobirds 
also parasitise nests. 

01. Colony with stages as indicated. If you observe a breeding colony 
then it would be a lot of work to fill out a separate NRC for every nest! 
Therefore just complete ONE card but indicate on it the different stages 
that are observed in the colony, writing on the reverse side (side two) 
of the card the approximate proportions of the colony that is at each 
stage. For example, if approximately 30% of the pairs were courting, 
40% nest building, 20% incubating and 10% feeding young, then un- 
der section 5 'Stages of breeding observed' circle all of the appropri- 
ate sub-categories and then WRITE IN the proportions of each stage 
observed on the reverse side of the card under 'Additional notes' 13 
(see below). Don't forget to indicate how many pairs/nests are present 
in the colony too! 

02. Nest parasitised. The most commonly recorded observation of a 
'parasitised nest' is when an adult bird, the 'host', is seen feeding the 
young of a different species, the 'parasite' . For this — or indeed if you 
are fortunate enough to see a 'parasite' female enter the nest of a host 
— then complete TWO cards, one with the parasite's name in section 
2 'Species' and the other with the host's name. On both cards circle 
this category in this section and complete the reverse side of the card. 
Under 'Additional notes' write the host species for the parasite's card 
and the parasite species for the host's card (see below). 

7. Habitat [always complete] 
Under this section, simply circle the habitat that best fits the habitat the nest 
was in. Some habitats may not fit any one category on the card. If so, either 
circle a combination of habitats or add a brief description under no. 10 
'Other' (e.g. 'coastal sand dunes & scrub' ). 

92 Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 

Dominant plant(s) in habitat — this is useful but need only be filled in if 
you know the plant species well. Most people are not botanists, and if you 
don't know the dominant plant, don't worry about it. 

Side two 

8-13 History of breeding status [always complete] 

This table allows the observer to record the progression or 'story' of a breed- 
ing attempt over a period of time. Ideally this would be the whole breeding 
event from courtship to fledging, but any set of observations over time is 
useful. Each of the eight rows in the table represents a separate day when 
the breeding attempt was observed. Details for that day should be filled in 
for each column accordingly (see detailed explanation below). Clearly, if 
the nest is checked often, the status may not change much from visit to 
visit. Where the status remains the same over a particular period, the appro- 
priate range of dates can be put into the day and month column (e.g. '5-12/ 
2/99', where 5 February is the first day when the nest was observed with 
that status, and 12 February the last). If more than eight observations are 
made, continue onto the second card (third side) as shown in the example. 

8. Year [always complete] 
The year of the observation. Please take note that this box exists!! Lots of 
NRCs have been submitted without this important box completed. 

9. Day & Month [always complete] 
The day and month of the observation — one row for one date, or range of 
dates where the status remained unchanged 

1 0. No. of Eggs [complete only when applicable] 
Write in this column the number of eggs seen in the nest, if any, for every 
visit recorded. You should not purposely flush an incubating adult off 
its nest in order to see how many eggs are present. The whole ethos of nest 
recording is to disturb breeding birds as little as possible so as to minimise 
the risk of the breeding attempt failing. 

Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 93 

11 . No. of young in nest / out nest [complete only when applicable] 
For the first 'sub-column' of this, under in nest', record the number of 
chicks that are observed actually in the nest. Please do not just tick it since 
this provides us with far less useful data. Under 'out nest', record the 
number of young seen away from the nest, having fledged but still remain- 
ing dependent on their parents. 

1 2. Status: Insert codes from below [always complete] 
In this column, write all the numbers for the relevant status codes from the 
'Status Codes' box immediately below the table. This may simply be one 
code, or a combination. Try to put in all the applicable codes to give as full 
a picture as possible of the status for that visit. 

13. Additional notes [complete only when applicable] 

For this column, write any further details that may be of interest or rel- 
evance to the breeding attempt. This could be presence of the adults around 
the nest and their activity, aspects of courtship behaviour, behaviour of chicks 
towards each other or the adults, adverse weather conditions, disturbance, 
predation, ideas on why eggs were found broken, and so on. It is here too 
that you should detail any information on brood parasites and their hosts, 
i.e. specify the other species involved and what exactly was observed. Here 
too record numbers of nests in a colony and proportions that are at each 
different stage that you can tell e.g. "20% nest-building, 40% incubating, 
30% feeding young in nest, 10% inactive or deserted". 

14. Status codes 

These are the codes that should be used to fill in under section / box 12 (see 
above). They are divided into the main components of a breeding attempt, 
starting with the nest through to the adult and finishing with any distur- 
bance that may have been noted. 

Nest : 

1. Completed. Nest, as far as can be told, has been recently completed. If 

you see a nest where the materials are beginning to decay and there is 
no sign of activity, this may be an old nest from a previous season and 
should not be recorded. 

2. Deserted. Nest has been recently built, and eggs possibly laid and even 

94 Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 

young hatched but the nest was then deserted for some reason (known or 
unknown). Usually this code applies after you have been watching a nest 
attempt for some time. 


3. Being incubated. Adult observed sitting on nest known to contain eggs, 

or for prolonged periods in manner of an incubating bird. 

4. Hatching. Eggs actually observed when chicks are emerging from them. 

5. Abandoned / infertile. Eggs known to have been left un-incubated for a 

long time; after a day or two, it should be confirmed that the eggs have 
been abandoned before finally entering this code n the 'Status' column. 
OF YOUR INTERFERENCE! Infertile eggs normally occur as the odd 
one or two in a clutch of other, fertile eggs and simply do not hatch 
along with the others. These are easy to identify since they are left in 
the nest after the chicks have hatched and developed. On occasion, a 
whole clutch will be infertile; these are usually incubated for far longer 
than a normal clutch before the adult gives up. For these it is important 
that the observer returns and double checks the nest more than once, to 
confirm that the eggs really have been abandoned. 

6. Broken Eggs found broken in or near nest — please give possible rea- 

son for breakage if it can be determined. (Remember that in some spe- 
cies, broken eggshells under the nest may be a sign that the chicks have 


7. Naked Young are very small and unfeathered. 

8. Downy This applies to precocial species such as raptors, waders, francolin, 

nightjars etc. where the young hatch with downy feathers and are never 
naked as such. 

9. Feathered Young have developed enough for feathers to have grown to 

a significant extent; if possible indicate under * Additional notes' how 
far grown the feathers are, as this is a useful indication as to how much 
the young have developed and how long it will be until they fledge. 

10. Ready to fledge. Body feathers entirely grown, wing feathers probably 
still 'in pin' (i.e. with a waxy sheath around the base) but sufficiently 
grown to enable the young bird to fly at least a short distance. 

Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 95 

11. Seen leaving nest. For this category, in nidifugous species, the young 
will have only just hatched and will also be 'downy' when they leave 
the nest; for nidicolous species, the young will be more-or-less fully 

12. Flightless & accompanying ad. This refers to nidifugous species such 
as waders, francolins, ducks, grebes, crakes etc., where the chicks are 
not in the nest, but are too young to fly (or can only fly a short distance) 
and are accompanied by at least one adult who is looking after them. 

13. Fledged & begging food / being fed by ad. Young must be seen either 
persistently begging food from adult of a non-migratory species AND/ 
OR actually being fed by adult. The young of several migrant species 
will continue to beg for food whilst on migration or even on wintering 
grounds many thousands of kilometres from the breeding site. This is 
most commonly seen amongst terns, but is also recorded in, for exam- 
ple, flamingos. 

14. Dead. Chick(s) found dead either in or out of nest. If possible, please 
state probable cause of death under 'Additional notes'. 

Adult : 

15. Courting. Adults observed displaying and courting. Beware not to con- 
fuse territorial display (which may be for a feeding territory rather than 
breeding site) for breeding display 

16. Mating. Adults observed actually mating; beware of display behaviour 
in some species where it appears the birds are mating (one mounting 
another) where in fact they are not, e.g. Hamerkop. 

17. Carrying nest material. Where an adult bird is observed carrying nest- 
ing material; nest not necessarily seen. 

18. Building nest. Nest observed with adult actively building or, for a hole 
nesting species, excavating it. 

19. At /entering nest (contents not seen). Nest either inaccessible due to 
height or location, or because it is in a hole and therefore impossible to 
see into; adult seen at the nest / nest entrance behaving in a way that 
suggests they are probably nesting. 

20. Incubating. Adult observed sitting on nest or entering nest hole arid 
remaining inside for extended period of time (an hour or more). 

21. Carrying food. Adults can be observed collecting food and flying off 
with it in their bills; this usually means that they are taking food to 

96 Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 

young in a nest somewhere (they might also be courtship feeding, so 
try to observe where they go). Often the adult can be followed and the 
nest itself found, but if not, this status is good enough to record for a 
confirmed breeding attempt. 

22. Agitated near nest If a potential threat comes close to an active nest, 
the adults will normally become quite agitated. Some species may even 
attack the intruder, bird-lover or not! Some birds, e.g. waders, use a 
'broken-wing display' where they pretend to have damaged a wing so 
that they cannot fly, thus attracting the intruder towards them and away 
from the vulnerable young in the nest. Please note as much detail of the 
behaviour as possible. 

Disturbance : 

23. Human. Record this status if you observe or learn of anyone disturbing 
the nest, whether this is done on purpose or by accident. 

24. Animal. Adults clearly disturbed by presence of another animal, e.g. 
snake, large mammal, mongoose, monitor lizard etc. Please note what 
the disturbance was under 'Additional notes'. 

25. Predation. Nest observed being depredated or shows clear signs of this 
when visited (e.g. broken eggs in and around the nest). Record details 
under 'Additional notes'. 

26. Bad weather Poor weather (heavy rain, strong winds, etc.) has dam- 
aged or is threatening the safety of the nest, either directly or indirectly 
(for example, heavy rain causing the river level to rise and threaten to 
wash away nest). Again, record details under 'Additional notes'. 

27. Other (describe above) Where an activity is observed that does not fit 
in to any of the previous 26 categories; describe it as fully as possible 
under the 'Additional notes' column for the appropriate date. 

15. Nest site 

Site description : In the space provided (or continuing on to the second, 
extra card), describe the details of where the nest itself is located — e.g. "in 
the fork of a branch towards the centre of a dense bush", "tucked under the 
edge of a roof of small house", "on ground partially hidden under the north- 
ern side of a tuft of grass". This describes the physical place in which the 
nest has been built — NOT what the nest looks like, nor the name of the 
area or location. 

Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 97 

Nest / eggs description (e.g. material, shape, size) : Here describe how the 
nest is constructed, including its shape e.g. 'cup nest' (the most common 
nest style), a 'purse-like' structure (e.g. sunbirds, crombecs), a 'platform' 
(many raptors), a 'simple scrape' (most waders, nightjars, game birds), etc. 
If possible measure or estimate and note its dimensions (width, depth), and 
describe the material that the nest is made from. Also describe the eggs if 
they can be seen — colour, size, shape etc. 

Height above ground : in metres, estimate the height the nest is located above 
the ground. 

Side th^ee 

This is the second card and is mainly blank space. It simply provides space 
for extra information that you may have noted about the breeding attempt. 
Use it to add extra days when the nest was visited many times, or for extra 
descriptions of the nest site and construction. Any added behaviour is also 
interesting and worth noting down, as are sketches of the nest and/or its 
location. For boxes 16. and 17., the details written here should be exactly 
the same as for boxes 1 . and 2. This is in order that if the two cards become 
separated by mistake, they can be matched up again without too much trou- 
ble. Please ensure that you complete these boxes fully! And to ensure that 
the two cards do not become separated, please attach this second, extra card 
to the main one, preferably by stapling them together. 

Extra comments and conclusion 

There are certain things that should be considered and observed when look- 
ing for and watching breeding birds. In the interests of the birds and their 
attempts to breed successfully, the over-riding rule is ' Disturb the birds as 
little as possible ': 

• Try not to visit a nest more often than is necessary to keep track of the 
major events in the breeding attempt. 

• Excessive disturbance from an observer (or observers) may cause the 
birds to desert the nest so that the breeding attempt fails. 

• Be very careful how you approach nests: frequent or careless visits can 
draw the attention of a predator. 

98 Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 

A mirror on a long stick can often be useful to check the contents of a nest 
high in a bush or tree. It saves you having to climb the tree and perhaps 
disturb or dislodge the nest (or indeed fall out of the tree yourself!) 

Overall, we hope that this new design of card will be easier to use than 
the previous ones. Please remember to complete BOTH sides of the main 
card and ALL the details in the top two boxes of the second card if it is used. 

All and any comments and suggestions on the card are most welcome 
and should be sent to the Nest Record Scheme Co-ordinator, EANHS, P. O. 
Box 44486, Nairobi. 

Waterbirds on Kenyan wetlands, 
1998 and 1999 

Joseph Oyugi and Alfred Owino 
Ornithology Department, P O Box 40658, Nairobi 

1998 overview 

As usual, the waterbird counts in 1 998 were carried out both in January/ 
February and mid-year with over 1 80 volunteers taking part. 

Following the heavy El Nino rains at the end of 1997 and start of 1998, 
most wetlands had high water levels and several temporary wetlands 
emerged. Waterbirds were generally much more dispersed than usual, and 
numbers of birds counted at particular sites were low compared to past 
years. This was especially obvious in the wetlands around Nairobi and 
Limuru. The very wet and muddy conditions in January also created practi- 
cal difficulties — many access roads were virtually impassable! 

Thirty sites were covered in different parts of the country in January 
1998. The range of sites was the greatest so far, including wetlands around 
Nairobi and Limuru, in the Rift Valley, the coast, the upper Tana River, 
Lake Victoria and Lake Ol'Bollosat. Several sites were counted for the first 
time. Once again wetlands in the Rift Valley (which include several impor- 
tant Lesser Flamingo feeding grounds) contained by far the most waterbirds 
— almost 950,000 in total, of 90 different species. Approximate totals for 
other regions were: Nairobi and Limuru areas, 2,600; coastal Kenya, 4,200; 
the upper Tana dams, 2,400; Lake Victoria region, 2,700; and Lake 

Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 99 

Ol'Bollosat 3,900. Of course, not all the wetlands at the coast or Lake Vic- 
toria were counted. The number of flamingos was higher in the Rift Valley 
in January 1998 than in some previous years (c. 914,000 individuals). At 
Naivasha, water had risen and flooded the fringing papyrus, so many 
waterbirds were hidden in inaccessible lagoons. A large proportion of the 
birds may have been missed here. 

The mid-year waterbird counts conducted between July and August cov- 
ered nine different sites (Lake Nakuru and the two adjacent sets of sewage 
treatment ponds, Lake Ol'Bollosat and the five dams located on the upper 
Tana). Lake levels at Lake Nakuru were very low compared to the other 
year, and only 2,600 flamingos were recorded. However, the fish-eating 
waterbirds such as cormorants and pelicans showed a significant rise in 
numbers, responding to the re- appearance of fish. Lake OrBollosat and the 
upper Tana dams also showed a general increase in the number of waterbirds 
counted compared to January. 

January/February 1998 

Nairobi and Limuru areas 

The January 1 998 waterbird counts in Nairobi and Limuru wetlands cov- 
ered eight different sites, many of which were man-made wetlands (sewage 
treatment works). These were Manguo Floodplain, Limuru Sewage Ponds, 
Dandora Oxidation Ponds, Kenyatta University Sewage Works, Langata 
Road and AHV Church Property Ponds and the wetlands within Nairobi 
National Park. Numbers of birds dropped at Dandora Oxidation Ponds and 
Limuru Sewage Ponds, possibly due to dispersal to the many other tempo- 
rary wetlands available after the rains. On the other hand, the well-flooded 
Manguo Floodplain showed a significant rise compared to January 1997. 

A total of 2,639 waterbirds of 56 different species were recorded in Nai- 
robi and Limuru sites. The bulk of these were at Dandora (2,163 individu- 
als of 48 different species). Numbers for other sites were: Manguo 
Floodplain, 129; Kenyatta University Sewage Works, 100; Nairobi National 
Park, 92; Sukari Dam, 65;, Langata Road and AHW Church Property Ponds, 
40; and Limuru Sewage Ponds, 20. 

Ducks and geese (1 ,526) were the most abundant single waterbird group. 
Ibises and spoonbills (191) followed by tringine sandpipers (148) were the 
second and third most abundant groups. Garganey (576), Hottentot Teal 
(375) and Egyptian Goose (201) were the most abundant single species. 

100 Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 

Rift Valley 

Nine different sites were surveyed in the Rift Valley during the January 
counts. These were Lakes Naivasha, Nakuru, Magadi, Bogoria, Turkana (a 
partial count), Elmenteita, Sonachi, Oloidien and the Nakuru Sewage Works. 
A total of 947,495 waterbirds of 90 species were counted in Rift Valley 
lakes. As usual, flamingos were the most abundant (914,694 in all). Other 
species of waterbirds totalled just 33,801 for all the wetlands counted in the 
Rift Valley. Lake Naivasha contained the highest number of species (60) 
followed by Nakuru (59) and Elmenteita (51). The lowest number of spe- 
cies was at Lake Sonachi — just three. 

Lake Bogoria had the most waterbirds (544,701 individuals) followed 
by Nakuru (353,757), Magadi (30,468), Elmenteita (13,003), Naivasha 
(2,172), Oloidien (1,691), Turkana (1,098 — only a small section was 
counted), Nakuru Sewage works (596) and Sonachi (9). The count for 
Naivasha was notably low, probably due in part to many birds lurking in- 
visibly behind the papyrus, in newly created lagoons. After flamingos, 
calidrid sandpipers were the second most abundant group (12,733), the bulk 
of these being at Lake Nakuru (8,891 individuals). Ducks and geese were 
the third most abundant group (6,591), with the highest record from Lake 
Elmenteita (3,707 individuals). 

Lesser Flamingo (898,3 1 1 ), Greater Flamingo ( 15,383) and Ruff (7,83 1 ) 
were the most abundant of any single species recorded in the Rift Valley. A 
good number of Chestnut-banded Plover (447) were recorded at Lake 
Magadi. Numbers of African Fish Eagles at Lake Naivasha declined again 
— only 67 were counted. 

Kenya coast 

The Kenya coast has a variety of different wetlands which provide good 
habitats for different species of waterbirds, most of which are Palaearctic 
migrants. The January 1998 waterbird counts covered five different wetlands. 
These were Lake Chem Chem, Malindi Harbour, Malindi Golf Course, Mida 
Creek and Sabaki River Mouth. A total of 4,239 waterbirds of 41 species 
were recorded, the majority at Mida Creek (3,199 waterbirds of 21 differ- 
ent species). However, Sabaki River Mouth had the highest number of spe- 
cies (33) and was the second in terms of number of waterbirds (712 indi- 
viduals). Malindi Harbour, Lake Chem Chem and Malindi Golf Course held 
232, 87 and 26 waterbirds respectively. 

Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 101 

Among the waterbird groups, Palaearctic plovers were the most abun- 
dant (2,268) followed by calidrid sandpipers (1,014) and stilts and avocets 
(236). The Ringed Plover (714) was the most abundant single waterbird 
species, followed by Grey Plover (690) and Crab-plover (586). 

Lake Victoria region 

The January waterbird counts in the Lake Victoria region covered three 
different sites: Dunga Fishing Beach, Nyamware Rice Field and Sondu- 
Miriu River Mouth. The water levels at the sites were high and the Water 
Hyacinth Eichhornia crassipes formed a thick carpet on the lake, espe- 
cially at Dunga Fishing Beach. A total of 2,737 waterbirds of 42 different 
species were recorded from the three sites surveyed. Sondu-Miriu River 
Mouth had the highest number of waterbirds and species (1,419 individuals 
of 35 different species). The other sites, Nyamware Rice Field and Dunga 
Fishing Beach, held 1,115 and 203 waterbirds respectively. 

Gulls and terns (673 individuals) formed the dominant group, followed 
by tringine sandpipers (507) and calidrid sandpipers (361). White- winged 
Tern (620) was the most abundant species, followed by Ruff (314) and 
Common Sandpiper (226). 

Upper Tana River dams 

The five upper Tana dams (Gitaru, Kiambere, Kindaruma, Kamburu and 
Masinga) were surveyed during February 1998 with thirteen volunteers tak- 
ing part using boats. The water level was high in all the reservoirs. A total of 
2,422 waterbirds of 43 different species were recorded from the sites. 
Masinga Dam had the highest number of waterbirds (1,115 individuals of 
29 different species). Other counts were Kamburu, 652; Kindaruma, 284; 
Gitaru, 209; and Kiambere 127 waterbirds. 

Gulls and terns (487) were the most numerous group, followed closely 
by cormorants and darter (474), tringine sandpipers (449) and calidrid sand- 
pipers (284). Great Cormorant (447), Common Greenshank (379) and 
Whiskered Tern (360) were the most numerous single species. 

Lake Ol'Bolossat 

Lake Ol'Bolossat is one of the several wetlands found in central Kenya 
(Nyandarua District). It covers an area of about 90 square kilometres of 
which about 80% is marsh and 15% open water, while the remaining 5% is 
open land that is seasonally flooded. The site was counted for the first time 

102 Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 

as part of the annual African Waterfowl Census (AfWC). The total of 3,92 1 
waterbirds of 46 different species, including 1 , 1 55 Hottentot Teal, was quite 

1998 mid-year waterbird counts 

The 1 998 mid-year waterbird counts were carried out during the months of 
July and August. Nine different sites were surveyed: Lake Nakuru (with the 
two nearby sewage works), Lake Ol'Bolossat and the five Upper Tana Dams. 
The counts at Lake Nakuru and adjacent sites were a continuation of the 
mid-year count that has been carried out there since 1990. The other sites 
were being counted for the first time during mid-year with support from the 
KWS-Netherlands Wetlands Programme. Training of waterbird counters, 
mainly staff from Kenya Wildlife Service, was also carried out at Kamburu 
during the counts at the Upper Tana dams 

The results for the mid-year counts were interesting. Very few flamingos 
were present at Lake Nakuru, but fish-eating waterbirds such as cormorants 
and pelicans had returned in good numbers. Greater Flamingo was spotted 
for the first time at Masinga Dam (a freshwater wetland). Some of the rare 
waterbird species in Kenya, such as Great Crested Grebe, African Darter, 
Little and Dwarf Bitterns and Chestnut-banded Plover, were also recorded. 

Lake Nakuru 

The annual mid-year waterbird counts at Lake Nakuru took place on 1 8-19 
July 1998 with 66 volunteers taking part. Both the lake and the two nearby 
sewage works (Njoro and Town) were counted. There was the usual buffalo 
problem in certain sections but no serious incidents. The lake level was 
quite high with thick mud in many places along the shoreline. Over 16,000 
waterbirds of 66 different species were recorded in total, about 1,100 of 
these from the sewage works. 

Flamingos (Greater and Lesser) were remarkably few, only 2,613 being 
recorded. The lake waters were high and unusually dilute, so feeding con- 
ditions were probably poor for these species. There was however a significant 
rise in the numbers of grebes (2,650), gulls (2,384) and pelicans (2,300). 
Particularly notable were records of rare species in Kenya such as Great 
Crested Grebe (2), Dwarf Bittern ( 1 ), Little Bittern ( 1 ) and Chestnut-banded 
Plover (5). Great Crested Grebe was once a common species at Nakuru, but 
these records are the first here for many years. 

Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 103 

Lake Ol'Bolossat 

Twenty-three volunteer counted here on 25 July 1998. The water level was 
high and most sections of the swampy edges were muddy, making some 
parts inaccessible. Despite this, over 4,800 waterbirds of 59 different spe- 
cies were recorded — more than in January. The leading waterbird groups 
were ducks and geese ( 1 ,493), herons and egrets (954) and ibises and spoon- 
bills (779). Yellow-billed Duck (1,080), Cattle Egret (456) and Egyptian 
Goose (376) were the most abundant of any single species recorded. Afri- 
can Snipe (8) and Giant Kingfisher (3) were some of the unusual waterbirds 

Upper Tana dams 

The five dams on the upper Tana River (Gitaru, Kamburu, Kiambere, 
Kindaruma and Masinga) were counted from 2-7 August 1998. Over 23,000 
waterbirds of 53 different species were recorded, substantially more than in 

Masinga Dam, by far the largest of these sites, held 22,254 waterbirds of 
39 different species, including a notable 1 9, 143 White-faced Whistling Duck. 

Numbers at the other sites were much lower: Kiambere, 476; Kamburu, 
377; Kindaruma, 320; and Gitaru, 84. Across all the dams, the leading 
waterbird groups were ducks and geese (19,976, mainly White-faced Whis- 
tling Ducks!), cormorants and darter (1,203) and herons and egrets (655). 

Forty-five Greater Flamingo were sighted at Masinga, along with an 
encouraging 53 African Darters and 20 Giant Kingfisher. 

January/February 1999 

In January 1999, 39 sites were covered — a substantial increase compared 
to previous years. Rainfall since mid- 1998 had been below average and the 
water level in all sites was low, often with extensive mud flats. Most sea- 
sonal wetlands were dry and waterbirds were not as dispersed as in January 
1998. Sites within the Rift Valley, including Ol'Bolossat, parts of Lake 
Turkana and three dams on the Kinangop plateau, held over 1,200,000 
waterbirds of 112 species. Wetlands within Nairobi and central Kenya held 
approximately 16,500 waterbirds of 81 species; there were 23,200 waterbirds 
of 85 species at six sites on the Kenya Coast, 34,600 of 69 species at the 

104 Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 

five Upper Tana River dams (including Sagana fish ponds), and 2,950 
waterbirds of 53 species at sites around Lake Victoria. 

Overall, the number of flamingos in the Rift Valley was higher than in 
recent years (over 1.2 million counted). Numbers were highest at Lake 
Bogoria (1,070,000, almost twice as many as the previous year) followed 
by Lakes Magadi (40,500) and Nakuru (11 ,900). The number of flamingos 
at Nakuru, although still unusually low, increased considerably compared 
to July 1998, perhaps linked to the drop in water level. At other sites, such 
as Dandora Oxidation Ponds, the number of waterbirds (especially ducks) 
showed a rise. Birds may have concentrated on permanent sites as seasonal 
wetlands, where they had dispersed in 1998 after the El Nino rains, dried 
up. The high number counted is therefore probably a good reflection of the 
actual number of waterbirds in the region. 

Rift Valley lakes, ponds and dams 

Rift Valley wetlands were counted between 9 and 31 January 1999. The 
sites covered (in order of counting) and numbers of waterbirds recorded 
were Bogoria (1 ,078,434), Nakuru (26,850), Nakuru Sewage Ponds (2,325), 
Elmenteita (9,577), Magadi (44,7 1 6), Naivasha ( 1 0,507), Oloidien (3,35 1 ), 
Sonachi (378), Turkana (1,424), Ol'Bolossat (25,154) and Kinangop Dams 
(802). Apart from flamingos, the most numerous groups were Afrotropical 
ducks and geese (14,100), rallids and jacanas (mainly coots) (10,627), 
followed by pelicans (6,686), Calidrinid sandpipers (6,187) and grebes 

Some notable records included 19 Great Crested Grebe Podiceps 
cristatus, including several juveniles, at Lake Elmenteita, where they had 
clearly been nesting. There were good numbers of Great White Pelicans at 
Elmenteita (1 ,400) and Nakuru (3,600), though still only a tenth of the num- 
bers recorded in the early 1990s). More than 700 Red-knobbed Coot were 
counted at Naivasha (still very few, but a good increase over the very low 
numbers of recent counts), and there were two African Darters at Naivasha 
as well. 

Lake OrBolossat was particularly interesting this year. For the first time 
it exceeded the Ramsar qualifying criterion of 20,000 individuals, with a 
total of a total of 25,154 waterbirds of an impressive 82 species. The lake 
level was low, with turbid water, and most sections of the swamp were dry. 
There were a notable 8,100 Red-knobbed Coot, almost 6,000 Egyptian 

Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 


Geese, and nearly 2,000 Sacred Ibis. Three regionally threatened waterbird 
species were also recorded: eight Great Crested Grebes, 29 Maccoa Duck 
and 40 White-backed Duck. 

Wetlands around Nairobi 

Nairobi wetlands were counted between 6 and 27 January 1 999, mainly on 
the Wednesday morning birdwalks. The bulk of the waterbirds were, as 
usual, at Dandora Ponds. The sites covered (in order of counting) and 
numbers of waterbirds recorded were Manguo Floodplain (834), Limuru 
Sewage Ponds (98), Gethumbwini Dam (562), Dandora Oxidation Ponds 
(13,718), Jogoo Road Pond (28), Hillcrest Dam (198), Langata Road and 
AHV Church (82), Fourteen Falls (112), Clay works Ltd Pond (38), Kenyatta 
Univ. Sewage Works (303), Nairobi Racecourse Pond (21 ), Nairobi National 
Park (545) and Runda Pond (18). The most abundant groups were grebes 
(4,837), Afrotropical ducks and geese (2,919) and rallids and jacanas (2,561, 
again mainly coots). Notable records included 56 White-backed Duck on 
Manguo Ponds. There were two African Darters at Langata Road pond and 
one at Fourteen Falls. 

Wetlands at the Kenya coast 

Coastal wetlands were counted between 27 January and 8 February 1999, 
the sites covered and numbers of waterbirds recorded being Arabuko Swamp 
(1,405), Fundisha Saltworks (523), Lake Chem Chem (2,203), Malindi 
Harbour (1,030), Mida Creek (4,749), Sabaki River Mouth (14,310). The 
most abundant groups were Calidrinid sandpipers (10,056) and Palaearctic 
plovers (2,510). Some notable records were around 390 African Open- 

106 Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 

billed Storks and the same number of African Jacanas at Lake Chem Chem; 
nearly 700 Crab-plovers at Mida Creek; and one Lesser Jacana and 1 3 African 
Darters at Arabuko Swamp. 

Upper Tana dams and Sagana Fish Ponds 

These sites were counted between 30 January and 13 February 1999. The 
sites and their waterbird numbers were Kindaruma (108), Gitaru (166), 
Sagana Fish Ponds (328), Kamburu ( 1 ,067), Kiambere ( 1 ,080) and Masinga 
(31 ,879). As usual Masinga held by far the bulk of the waterbirds. The most 
numerous groups were Afrotropical ducks and geese (29,1 14) and cormorants 
and darters (1,947). There were good numbers of African Darters (228) on 
the Upper Tana dams, and 28,900 Afrotropical duck (including around 1 6,800 
White-faced Whistling Duck) on Masinga alone. 

Lake Victoria Wetlands 

Counted on 30-31 January 1999 were Sondu Miriu River Mouth (473 
waterbirds), Obange Pond (109), Nyamware Rice Fields (1,814) and Dunga 
(554). The most numerous groups were terns (1,196, a good number) and 
Calidridinid sandpipers (428). 


Once again the waterbird count organisers (the Department of Ornithology, 
NMK) are grateful to the volunteers who have over the years been such 
enthusiastic participants. We thank all those who generously provided 
vehicles and boats; Elsamere Field Studies Centre and the Kenya Wildlife 
Service Training Institute (through the KWS-Netherlands Wetlands 
Programme) for counters' accommodation; Delamere's Camp for permission 
to count at Lake Elmenteita; the Tropical Biology Association for the loan 
of binoculars; and the many others who assisted in various ways. Financial 
support for the 1 998/1 999 counts came from the Ramsar Bureau's Wetland 
Conservation Fund and the KWS-Netherlands Wetlands Programme. The 
waterbird counts are a collaborative effort between the Department of 
Ornithology (National Museums of Kenya), Nature Kenya (the East Africa 
Natural History Society) and the Kenya Wildlife Service. 

Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 107 

Dr James F. Lynch 

James F. Lynch, Smithsonian Research Scientist and Research Asso- 
ciate of the Ornithology Department, lost a long battle with cancer 
on March 26, 1998. He died at his home in Shady Side, Maryland, 
USA. Despite the difficulties of his illness, he carried out fieldwork 
in Texas only three weeks before he died. Over the past year, he pro- 
duced several new papers and manuscripts and sustained an active 
correspondence with colleagues around the world. 

Jim Lynch was a man with a great love of life and a large appetite 
for its many aspects. He was a productive scientist, a willing teacher, 
a talented artist, a gifted musician, and a generous friend. 

Jim was born in Boston Massachusetts in November 1942. He 
went to Harvard College, graduating cum laude in 1964 with a BA in 
geology. He was a man of many facets. To help put himself through 
school, he sang professionally with a group aptly named 'The Lynch 
Mob' . He also rowed during this period, and made the decision to 
concentrate on science rather than train as a member of the American 
Olympic rowing squad. 

From Harvard Jim moved to the University of California at 
Berkeley to pursue his PhD. It was at this stage that he underwent a 
major change in research direction. During his first two years at 
Berkeley he was a graduate student in Geology. After a summer ge- 
ology work experience in a mine in Montana, he switched his major 
to zoology, graduating in 1974. His thesis was titled 'Ontogenetic 
and geographic variation in the morphology and ecology of the Black 
Salamander, Aneides flavipunctatus 1 . 

Jim then joined the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center 
in Edgewater, Maryland as a research scientist. During his 24 years 
with the Smithsonian, he conducted research in ecology, systemat- 
ics, island biogeography, habitat reduction and fragmentation, and 
animal-plant interactions. Jim's conservation research in Central 
America and Mexico spanned over 30 years, from documenting the 
distribution of salamander populations in Guatemala to examining 
impacts of habitat fragmentation in Yucatan bird populations. Most 
recently, he initiated a project with the National Museums of Kenya 


Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2, August 1999 

to monitor bird populations in Laikipia, comparing avian communi- 
ties in areas with a variety of human impacts. (His last visit to Laikipia 
was in late 1997, when despite frail health he was able to take Mu- 
seum researchers around some of his study plots at Mpala Ranch. 
Jim's enthusiasm for birds was undiminished by illness and together 
we enjoyed dramatic aerial displays by Lanners, a surprise flock of 
overflying Open-billed Storks, and pinning down the identification 
of Boran Cisticola. . .). 

Over the course of Jim's career, he worked on amphibians, birds, 
mammals, reptiles and ants, and conducted research over an enor- 
mous range of the world, including North, Central, and South America, 
Australia, and East Africa — not to mention many parts of the United 

Jim produced over 60 scientific publications. He was actively in- 
volved in many professional societies, advisory committees, and non- 
profit organizations, such as the World Wildlife Fund and the Ameri- 
can Bird Conservancy. A regular reviewer for many international jour- 
nals, he was an enthusiastic collaborator with scientists from all over 
the world. 

In order to support new scientists working in conservation biol- 
ogy, a fund has been set up in Jim's honour through the Smithsonian 
Environmental Research Center. The James F. Lynch Conservation 
Biology Fund will assist students and researchers working in Central 
America and East Africa. The goal is to build this fund into an en- 
dowment that will continue to help scientists interested in conserva- 
tion biology for years to come. Contributions and inquiries may be 

made to the James F. Lynch Con- 
servation Biology Fund, care of 
Jeanine Robert at the Smithsonian 
Environmental Research Center, 
P O Box 28, 
Edgewater, MD 
21037, USA. 
The first award 
from this Fund 
will be made in 

East Coast 

Don't forget... 

World Birdwatch 

2-3 October 1999 

7b register, contact Nature Kenya. 

NTT World Birdwatch is on again this year too — for the 
WHOLE month of October. Please send ANY records from 
ANYWHERE in Kenya for ANYTIME in October to the Orni- 
thology Department. Every species on the final list earns 
money for bird conservation. 

Kenya's NTT ranking has slipped recently because we 
haven't gathered records over the whole month — you 
can help claw our way back up to the top! 


For Kenya Birds • National Birdmap • nest record cards 

Department of Ornithology, National Museums of Kenya, P O 
Box 40658, Nairobi, e-mail, tel. 
742161/31 ext. 243, fax 741424 

For Bird Committee • birdwalks and excursions • birding 
hotline • regional birding groups • Scopus subscriptions 

Nature Kenya, P O Box 44486, Nairobi, e-mail, tel. 749957/746090, fax 741049 

Kenya Birds, Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2: August 1999 


Editorial ii 

News from Kenya and abroad 1 

Department of Ornithology 1 

Bird Committee 13 

Nature Kenya 16 

BirdLife International 21 

Records 32 

Afrotropical species 35 

Palaearctic species 42 

Breeding records 43 

Corrections to records in Kenya Birds 6 49 


Nairobi Ringing Group in the Aberdares 50 

An odd 'raptor' 51 

Bom to be survivors 52 

Booted Eagle at Tudor Creek 54 

Nesting Ethiopian Swallow at Lewa Downs 56 

Long-tailed Cormorant fishing on reef 56 

A Nairobi breeding record for African Cuckoo Hawk 57 

Grey-crested Helmet-shrike at Oloidien, Naivasha 57 

Sightings of helmet-shrikes north-west of Lake Oloidien, Naivasha 58 

Grey-crested Helmet-shrike breeding record 59 

Hinde's Babbler and Blue Quail near Thika 60 

The Kinangop Plateau 61 

Bird records from northern Kenya forests 62 

Roadside counts show changes in raptor populations 68 

Thick-billed Cuckoos in the Taita Hills 71 

Colonial waterbirds at Naivasha, Elmenteita and Nakuru, January to August 1998 . 73 

Threatened birds of Kenya 1 1 : Kulal White-eye 75 

Nairobi ringers in England and Portugal 77 

How to complete the new Nest Record Card 84 

Waterbirds in Kenyan wetlands, 1998 and 1999 98 

Dr James F. Lynch 107 

Little-Stmt— Edwin Setempa-^.